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Education Now

The Healing Power of Friendships and Relationships

A discussion on how schools can help every student to feel that they belong — by encouraging friendships and supportive relationships.

The pandemic has caused many of us to recognize the power of relationships — for ourselves, and for our children. Have your children's friendships changed — or suffered? Are your students finding it hard to re-ignite their stalled connections?  How can schools help to foster friendship — and prioritize strong relationships and a sense of belonging for every student? And what are the lessons we can take with us into our own adult lives?


Junlei Li, Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Co-Chair, Human Development and Education Program, HGSE


Traci Baxley, Associate Professor, Florida Atlantic University; and author of Social Justice Parenting: How to Raise Compassionate, Anti-racist, Justice-minded Kids in an Unjust World
Jean Rhodes, Frank L. Boyden Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring, University of Massachusetts Boston

Key takeaways:

  1. Young people's relationships with teachers and other caring adults at school are vitally important — affecting motivation, academic performance, and overall well-being. 
  2. A focus on friendships, relationships, and a sense of belonging is not "extra" or optional. It is essential, especially this year.
  3. Relationship mapping and quick classroom surveys can help ensure that every child is known and seen.
  4. You can model empathy and care for others — and show young people how to be a good friend. 
  5. We should avoid a “false choice” between learning and connections. It’s not one or another — it’s both. Learning occurs in relationships.


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