Fostering Healthy Relationships
Research shows that children only need one key support friendship during their schooling years to help them achieve positive wellbeing. It also shows us that students need to feel connected to school, and those that do or feel that they are connected, cared for by their peers, tend to be happier, healthier and achieve better academic outcomes. This is because we (as people) gain an understanding of our identity (who we are), meaning and wellbeing through the context of our relationships. So, fostering healthy relationships are just as crucial as any aspect of a child’s schooling.
This then, is also true for the flip side. Children who tend to feel isolated, disconnected and alone at school, with no connection between another peer, tend to be unhappier and don’t perform as well academically.
What is a healthy friendship and what does it look like?
Learning how to build positive friendships and maintain healthy friendships is not something your child will need to learn just for school. Wherever they go and whatever they do they will need to learn and navigate how to do this.
Healthy friendships are ones that are built on any integral positive relationship. Such as honesty, compassion, fairness and collaboration. Student to student relationships are stimulating and nurturing for both children involved. It is important to understand such relationships need to be reciprocal. Both parties need to acknowledge the connection.
How we as a school help to foster this and support positive relationships:
Here at Australis we aim to build healthy friendships by providing multiple opportunities for students to connect in a range of contexts. Not just inside the classroom. We run chess clubs and tournaments for students who wouldn’t normally connect to bond over something they both enjoy.
As parents, connecting up with other parents at the park, local playground or each other’s houses helps children to build deeper and healthier friendships with each other the more they see each other outside the classroom.
How can I help my child in this area?
It is important to help your child understand what a positive friendship looks like.
Help them to understand by discussing what you consider to be a positive friend and why you value your own personal friendships. Talk to them about what it is that you want to bring to your relationships and why.
Make a list together of what they consider to be important.
Example: someone who listens to me, someone who wants to play my games too, someone who doesn’t make me feel bad.
Model this to your children as it is vital that your child sees you demonstrating this as this will help your child navigate the complexities of social skills.
Perspective is also just as important. It might well be that a child doesn’t believe that they have a healthy friendship but indeed they just don’t know how to recognise it. We know that children learn best through seeing and often compare themselves to others. This means that if they are looking at another particular example of a healthy friendship then they may be trying to mimic someone else’s relationship rather than acknowledge theirs. Reminding them about their own relationships and affirming them on what they might already have will help them shift their own perspective.
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