The importance of Building relationships

It is worthwhile exploring what opportunities exist in school to build relationships between staff and children and how these can be increased. For some children, the experience of spending individual time with a member of school staff may seem terrifying. These children may have experienced adult relationships as being unpredictable and inconsistent and have developed this avoidance as a coping strategy and a way of feeling safe. They need to be able to experiment being in close proximity to an adult whilst still feeling safe and in control. A useful way to provide this can be to offer them the opportunity to choose a friend to do a job for you with them. This gives them permission to be as close or distant from you as they need to be.

Gradually, over time as they develop a relationship with you, they may become more relaxed and be able to initiate this for themselves. It is essential that they are encouraged to build the relationship themselves and that it is not rushed as this may result in them feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

All school staff have a responsibility to consider children who have difficulty building relationships and identify who could be made available and what can be done to help them when they feel scared or anxious in order to help them feel safe and secure. If this is overlooked and not prioritised, it can seriously affect children’s ability to fully engage with their learning. Positive relational experiences are a basic human need and should not be used as a punishment or a reward in our schools. A sense of security with an adult in school is essential to a child’s social and emotional development and emotional well-being.

Staff strategy – have I encouraged the children I work with to feel good about themselves today?

  • Have I praised them?
  • Have I acknowledged positive behaviour?
  • Have I identified helpful hands?
  • Have I recognised both effort and achievement in children’s work?


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