I’ve read enough self-help books to know that interpersonal relationships are important.
That people who have the most grit and the highest happiness index are those who have friends.
And it doesn’t even have to be lots of friends. Sometimes, it need only be one.
I have witnessed firsthand the almighty power of positive relationships in the schoolyard. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen the destructive power of negative ones.
And, saddest of all, I’ve been privy to conversations where children admit to having acted out because, really, all they wanted was to just fit in and belong.
The people you choose to spend time with have an impact on you. If your friends tend to dwell on the bad rather than the good; if they lean towards pessimism rather than optimism, then chances are, you’ll do the same.
If for some reason you just don’t “click” with the people around you, if you struggle to find your “tribe”, the repercussions can be drastic.
Research says that lonely people are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease because of increased exposure to stress hormones. They get poorer sleep, have a lower immunity and greater instances of inflammation.
Some scientists liken feelings of loneliness to an intense hunger that you can’t satiate.
But all of this can be avoided through the miraculous power of connection.
Eddie Jaku, in his book “The Happiest Man on Earth”, credits his friendship with just one fellow Jew as his main motivation to survive the terrible horrors of the holocaust.
So what can we do to stave off loneliness while kids are still young?
We can insist on “buddy benches” in schools. A place where kids can sit if they have no-one to play with so that they will be noticed and invited to join others.
We can artificially create friendships until they turn real. By this I mean nudging that child who wants to always walk with you on playground duty towards another little one that looks like they could do with a friend. Suggesting a game they could play.
Opening the library at lunch times and holding lunchtime “clubs” enables single students to follow their interests and hopefully meet others with similar hobbies.
Perhaps learning centres could even have a setup like the “human library” of Denmark? https://humanlibrary.org/
Encouraging students to feel ok being alone can be powerful too. Quiet drawing, reading a favourite book, journaling or story writing are examples of things that can be pleasurable and don’t require the company of others.
Teachers can create welcoming classroom environments where each student feels like a valuable member of the team. Where there is as much collaboration as there is competition.
Developing children’s emotional literacy empowers them to survive rejections and to stay open and vulnerable and brave, giving others friendships the chance to take root.
Talking to kids about loneliness is vital too. Explaining that it’s a normal feeling and something everyone goes through. That there are ways you can make yourself into a good friend in order to make friends. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/she-made-me-do-it/
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