Friendships are beneficial for a young person’s social and emotional development. They contribute to feelings of belonging, connectedness and acceptance by peers, which are all key protective factors for a student’s wellbeing. Having friends has also been shown to increase a student’s social competence, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Being able to form and maintain friendships is a fundamental life skill that we need to nurture in our students. It has been shown that developing connections and relationships within classroom environments supports positive friendships and enhances students’ cognitive abilities.
Top tips for supporting your students
- One of the most effective ways to enhance positive friendships is by creating safe, respectful and supportive classroom environments where friendships can thrive. Set ground rules early to develop a culture of inclusivity and respect.
- To support positive friendships, take the time to build relationships and connections with and among the students in your classroom. Plan activities where students need to work together.
- Encourage your students to become involved in school activities of interest, such as sports, debating, music or social justice. Involvement creates connections with like-minded students.
- Show an interest in all your students. Model effective social and emotional skills by asking questions, demonstrating respect, celebrating diversity, and valuing relationships with different members of your school community.
- Provide a space for the year group to gather and meet during break times. A designated junior area of the playground can help students locate each other during break times. This will encourage connections by helping students to find familiar faces.
Teamwork and group discussions can help students feel connected in the classroom. Being part of a group discussion can promote the skills required to work together.
By sharing thoughts and experiences with each other, students can form a sense of belonging within the classroom. This can strengthen connections and relationships between students.
It's normal for students' relationships to change, especially as they transition to secondary school. Equip students with the skills to adapt and cope with these changes and help them to develop social resilience.
Evaluating and analysing friendships is an important step for students to ensure they are surrounding themselves with people who support and care about them.
Unfortunately, not all friendships are positive. Some can have a negative impact on students' lives and be considered toxic. Teach students how to recognise when a friendship is toxic, and to develop strategies to help them cope with these relationships.
Resources for students
ReachOut works with young people across Australia to develop content. You could share some of these resources with your students.
Having good friends who love and support you for who you are is really important to your happiness. Learn more about what makes a good friend, and about how you can be there for your friends when they need you most.
It sounds cheesy, but you gotta be yourself. There’s not much point in trying to make friends while pretending to be someone you’re not. Learn more about making mates at school.
Most people are shy from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if your shyness has started to bug you, or you feel that it’s holding you back in some way, there are things you can do to overcome it. ReachOut has some helpful tips if you’re feeling shy.
Communicating well can help you to maintain good relationships, avoid conflict and even increase your likelihood of getting what you want. Learn how active listening, assertive communication, and body language all add up to awesome communication skills.
It’s not always easy to know where you stand in a friendship, but there are ways to spot when it’s no good. Find out how to recognise and handle a toxic friendship. Remember to have support around you, and to ask for help when you need it.
Resources for parents and carers
ReachOut works with parents across Australia to develop content that helps them to support their young person. You could share some of these resources with your parent community.
By learning the skills to be a good friend, your child is more likely to build a strong support network. This is key to their wellbeing and their ability to deal well with challenges that arise through the teenage years.
All teenagers need to learn how to form and maintain friendships. As a parent, taking the time to understand how your child is experiencing and connecting with others in their world can help them to learn how to navigate their relationships successfully and independently.
We all hope that our child's friends will provide them with support and understanding, and be genuinely concerned for their wellbeing. But sometimes you may worry that some friends might be having a negative influence on them.
When it comes to friendships, you might find yourself wondering whether it’s a good idea for your child to be making friends online.
You want your teen to have friends they can rely on. But making friends can be tough for some young people. Unfortunately, the days when you managed their social life are gone. Your role now is to empower them to do it for themselves.