To be in relationship is to be human – it’s as intrinsic to our survival as the air that we breathe. Our primal needs to belong, to be of significance, all play out within the fabric of our relationships. We know ourselves through the knowledge of ourselves in relationship to others.
Neuroscience confirms the imperative for babies and children to be in positive relationship with those who will nurture their emotional and physical development, with deficits in this nurturing severely impacting neurological development. We require this immersion in healthy relationships in order to thrive. And into adulthood, our capacity to grow, nurture and repair relationships is a key determinant in emotional and physical wellbeing.
In the time of Covid, it has been the requirement to physically and socially distance ourselves from each other that has proven to be a direct challenge to our wellbeing, whilst key to protecting our physical health. I have been confronted by both the challenges and the lifeline that virtual connection has become: the reach for the other across the screen and the challenging absence of the social cues normally afforded by proximity.
For children in particular, experiencing that absence of their key peer and teacher relationships will have been additionally significant, as their age indicates the key developmental cues they will have been relying on for healthy emotional and social development.
And then there are the challenges in reintegrating post social isolation. What do the children need others to understand about their recent lockdown experiences, and how does this appreciation then foster the re-engagement and connection required for the relationship to mould to the people we have become, post-lockdown?
The RESTORE framework provides both the context for appreciating our recent experiences, and the provision of discussion opportunities for the sharing of these experiences and needs. Check out the excellent resources on the RESTORE website. Peacemakers have put together excellent examples of activities which provide opportunities for the reconnection of relationships.
Additionally, Carr Manor Community School, provides a great example of how a whole school strategy for building and maintain relationships can increase resilience in schools post-pandemic:
Carr Manor Community School is an all-through school, with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils. Across the whole school, restorative leadership and practices help all pupils to be successful in their academic achievement, whilst learning about equity, respect, tolerance, self-regulation and community. Every child is part of a mixed-age coaching group, which builds trust and strong relationships between all pupils and staff. Working together to build, maintain and restore these relationships gives the school the capacity to include all pupils, regardless of need or background, and the ambition to secure positive outcomes and destinations for all.
Relationships that are rich in understanding and supportive empathy create the safety net for all of us to participate in the growth of nurturing communities of learning.