That TV show "Friends" was always going to go down well with young people, being about young friends.
Nothing takes up more time in young people's lives than their friends. Texting, Mssging, Facebook and all that. Looking back, my generation had to make do with talking to each other, but friends were still of A1 importance.
The first thing I learned at my first Blue Sky training session was about "attachment". Newborn babies, from the minute they exist, crave attachment with a caring parent. Attachment is a two-way feeling of understanding and care for someone. It's the love we feel for our family members. It starts before babies are born. As they grow and learn to walk and talk the attachment deepens. Babies develop attachment with their parents, then use the skills to make healthy relationships with other people.
Children who have fractured relationships with their parents have trouble making attachments. They don't get on with other people very well, and it can be the root cause of a whole range of social problems.
It's not only the children of socially deprived families that suffer. Rich still send their children off to boarding school, and the damage they can suffer is starting to be understood.
My own children all have a steady bunch of friends they are growing up with. They have been friends for a long time. There are arguments. New faces come and go occasionally. Changing schools from primary to secondary was a wrench, but with social media they've stuck together. Now that they are getting towards thinking about romance I guess the dynamic will shift a bit.
I notice it's not the same for many looked-after children. Yes they sometimes have friends, but I'd call them acquaintances rather than friendships. You see it in the playground, the foster child is often on his own. Not necessarily unhappy, almost as if they've pulled up the drawbridge on other people and don't want the risk/reward of trying to bond.
It's not always the case of course, and I've also noticed that the problem, if it is a problem, seems to right itself as they approach adulthood. They find themselves a buddy or two. Or as Bill puts it "An accomplice".
I don't know if what I've noticed about foster children struggling to make friends is true across the board, maybe it's just my brood. As to the cause; their damaged attachment? Their conscious reluctance to put themselves out there and maybe get emotionally hurt again? Maybe they are simply short of the social skills you need to keep hold of playmates. Maybe other children sense that your looked-after child might be a bit more complicated than the rest and children are usually pretty astute at recognising the necessary similarities with themselves that make other children potential friends.
The thing is, what do we carers do to help? You can't teach a foster child "give-and-take". I tried once arranging a little tea-party of school mates at our house, but it didn't do the trick. The other children paired off and my looked-after ended up angry, confused and overdosed on sugar. He didn't end up with a buddy.
I guess the best we carers can do is be some kind of friend while they are with us.
As a p.s. Blue Sky organise a load of social events where all the children there are young people in care. They do seem to relax knowing that everyone is in the same boat, no worries about another child asking an awkward question or fear that others might be gossiping about them.