Imagine you could chose your family. That you could custom pick each individual member for their personal qualities and traits that you would most like to have around you in your life.
Just consider that you get to have the kind of brother or sister you would have always wanted!
When the right balance is created amongst a group of peers, it is exactly the ideal dynamic or people coming together. A strong thread of similar thinking, similar cause, values or interests that unites them. And event though they may not always see eye to eye, always stay in contact with each other, there is still an unwritten rule, an acceptance of the facts that they are ultimately bonded in some way.
The sense of support, of harmony and connection that comes from a group of friends like this is priceless. And yet so many young people miss out on achieving this at one or more points in their lives.
It might be easy for the adult mind to rational and think “You are capable enough to achieve on your own, to do what ever you want to do without those connections” and yet for the young person who is outside of a friendship circle, it can feel as painful as an unrequited love. It’s the acceptance that they seek, even if deep down they might see this group as being unsavoury in some way.
It’s even possible that the young person themselves could look at an assembled group and find true fault with them in some way or their behaviour. Many times now I have heard young people tell me things like “I know that that group of girls are horrible to people, they are horrible to me. I just want to be their friend.”
In effect what they are saying is “I’d rather be on the inside of something bad looking out, than on the outside looking in.” That’s not necessarily because it would help them avoid being the victim of a negative group, but is more likely because the pain on being the loner or outsider is deep and hurtful. It is isolation and isolation is ultimately a form of rejection – one of the biggest fears of any human being.
Asking a young person to be ok with being the loner and forgo the relationships he would have had in a group of friends (even a destructive group) is a big ask. It’s almost a case of asking the impossible.
So in the instance that a young person is having friendships challenges in school, knowing full well that even if they had the opportunity to be part of that group it would be destructive for him to do so, the best course of action is to focus on other areas outside of school where they can feel supported by a good, social friendship network. It sounds like a great ask of them to tolerate a situation that could last 6 years of their lives! But the truth is dynamics shift often and unexpectedly in school environments.
People leave, new people join, new teachers step in, old teachers step out. You’d be surprised at the many different factors which appear unrelated that can affect group dynamics. Leaders can shift as confidences grow, outside events can take confidences away.
In the years I have been working with groups of people, no one group is the same, and no group stays the same. They change form as readily as the seasons and whilst patience in itself is a virtue, it can be worth keeping in mind that those who fail to find friendships at the outset , may yet become the social butterflies, the leaders and the person that everyone else wants to get to know in a very short space of time.
By Gemma Bailey