FOR THE LOVE OF RELATIONSHIPS – Essentials for back to school success

Summer is ending and school is about to begin. New backpacks, new books, new clothes, new grades, new friends, and sometimes new schools. This could be scary, exciting, sad, anxiety-ridden, or fearful for students.

As a parent you can assist your child by informing them that teachers are aware of their feelings regarding the first day of school and they are ready to address them. Teachers are taught to introduce themselves and to help students get oriented and know what to expect. Experienced teachers provide ice-breakers encouraging students to get to know one another and increase connections to reduce anxiety and stress. 

According to the Search Institute, relationships and healthy connections help students succeed in school and in life. Relationships are at the heart of what youth need to learn, grow, and thrive. High-quality relationships are essential to the development of resilience and overcoming obstacles and life hardships. The National Research Council on the Developing Child opined, “Whether burdens come from the hardships of poverty, the challenges of parental substance abuse or serious mental illness, the threats of violence or chronic neglect, or a combination of factors, the single most common finding is that children who end up doing well have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” To learn, grow, and develop, research informs us thatsupportive relationships are critical. They provide an environment of reinforcement, modeling, and constructive feedback for physical, intellectual, and social growth. Additionally, healthy relationships are the rich soil in which students thrive regarding social and emotional competencies. Educational researchers Pianta, Hamre and Allen write, Positive relationships with adults and peers are perhaps the single most important ingredient in promoting positive youth development. Educational scholar, Bronfenbrenner, declared, “No society can long sustain itself unless its members have learned the sensitivities, motivations, and skills involved in assisting and caring for other human beings.”

This research is not new but needs to be operationalized and invested in now more than ever. The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a new report entitled, The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.  According to this report as many as 40 percent of students feel lonely and isolated from meaningful support. 

If relationships really matter, we must make them a priority for young people. We need to invest in high-quality relationships in our families, schools, and youth programs.  Growing evidence suggests that strategically investing in building healthy, high-quality relationships can be catalytic for effective education, programs, and services for children, youth, and families. Educational experts throughout the country have stated that the effectiveness of youth-serving programs, practices, and policies is determined by whether they strengthen or weaken relationships. When healthy, high-quality relationships are prevalent, development is promoted, and when supportive relationships are not available or diluted, other educational interventions show limited effects.

In conclusion, for this school year to be the best, let us work together to make healthy, high-quality relationships a priority for ourselves and our students. Let’s teach and model the foundational skills it takes to develop relationships and watch the school year unfold.