In the first days of a new school year when I was teaching, I would ask each class of students to contribute its wisdom in helping compile a list on the board. What rules should we have for this classroom community to run successfully?
Students want life in school to be fair. Their abundant contributions easily filled the board, surprisingly containing stricter ideas than mine! Without being asked directly, my students would reveal that they understood the quality of our relationships create the quality of a community. When we combined and distilled this list as a group, the result was 3 or 4 main tenets that would guide us through the year. I always thought the time it took for this activity was well worth it and resulted in great buy-in.
Returning to school, your child faces the “Others”- meaning diversity, differences and contrast. For many, this may be difficult to navigate. Fears around relationships in less than safe-feeling groups of students can undermine success at school in general.
We already know what is healthy and unhealthy in relationships. We already know how we want ourselves and others to be treated. Offering the opportunity for your children to verbalize this at home before going back to school is valuable. Why?
- It reinforces what matters most in relationships and friendships
- It brings to light your child’s strongest identity and values
- It informs your child’s idea of how to be a friend to others and what to look for in a new friend
- It helps your child make healthy choices from a position of strength and character
- It defines the characteristics of trust, which is at the foundation of strong relationships and communities
Take some time to make a simple chart with Healthy Relationships on one side and Unhealthy Relationships on the other. Listing attributes on each side reveals the strength of what your child already understands and is a good jumping off point for conversation on how to respond to others, what to look for, and what to avoid or let go. It helps your child trust their own judgment more easily. And speaking of trust and relationships, don’t miss seeing Brene Brown’s masterful work on the subject.
In healthy relationships, we feel free and safe, even with our vulnerabilities. Don’t assume this will happen. Guide your children to recognize and build them.