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This week we welcome Bryanston's Second Master, Peter Hardy, as a guest blogger.
A recent survey by the Church Urban Fund found that loneliness is increasingly the biggest social problem in England, regardless of class or income. Loneliness can affect anyone and not just those who are on their own.
It can be a common worry for pupils starting a new school, for example, that they will be without a friend (or a best friend). Our advice to pupils as they join us is to ‘be yourself’ and get involved – use every opportunity to get to know others, whether in the common room of the boarding house, playing sport or in one of the many extra-curricular activities on offer. Boarding school, or any environment where we live in close proximity with a wide range of people, helps to develop the key skills needed, not only for making friends, but also learning to get along with those we may not choose as friends.
The nature of friendships can be complex and, as well as the lifelong friendships we develop, there can be those that pose potential pitfalls and problems, particularly in adolescence. There are issues of exclusivity (or having just one best friend) and jealousy if we feel that we are losing friends to someone (or something) else. There are also friendships that arise for the ‘wrong’ reasons: the friends we have to impress others, or those with whom we know we will always get our own way. In addition, friendships change over time and dealing with these changes can cause young people anxiety and distress, as some friends drift apart and the dynamics of friendship groups alter.
With all these potential problems, virtual friendships, for example via Facebook, can seem an easier alternative, but they can make feelings of loneliness and isolation worse, as the status updates of others can increase the perception that everyone else is having a more exciting and enjoyable time. The bite-sized communication that this type of interaction typically involves can be superficial and we all, especially young people, can miss out on the interactions and depth of connection that can be made face to face.
While we all recognise the need for friends and friendship, it isn’t always easy to make, and keep, friends. Everyone learns to do so through trial and error; making mistakes and learning from them in a safe, controlled environment, such as Bryanston, with an experienced network of support to help them get back on track when things do go wrong.
Emotional intelligence and making and keeping friends go hand-in-hand; having one will usually improve the other and at Bryanston we seek to improve pupils' emotional intelligence, helping them to develop not only lifelong friendships, but also the skills necessary to do so.