Establishing Healthy Relationships

by K-12 Counseling Team | Saturday, May 01, 2021

At the most fundamental level, we are social creatures hardwired for human connection. Our psychological health and well-being depend strongly on our ability to form close relationships. So, when we experience successful relationships and a sense of connectedness and belonging, we do better. Teaching students the strategies and skills they need to establish, build, and maintain healthy relationships is an important part of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Through friendships, students learn to be sensitive to another person's perspective and learn the rules of conversation as well as age-appropriate behaviors. Relationship skills include the capacity to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to solve problems, resolve conflicts constructively, navigate diverse social and cultural settings, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed (CASEL, 2021). Students who feel connected to school are more likely to succeed - they have better school attendance, grades, and test scores. 

So, what makes a healthy relationship?

  1. Respect - Respect each person as an individual. A healthy relationship means learning about the other person & valuing what’s important to them. 

  2. Trust - Means that you feel that you can count on each other & that the other person will be there for you. Trust needs to be earned over time & can be lost with a broken promise. 

  3. Honesty - Be frank about our thoughts & feelings.

  4. Communication - Is how we show our respect, trust & honesty. It requires listening & sharing thoughts & feelings. A relationship does not exist without communication.


Some students struggle to make friends, while for others, it seems to come more naturally. If your child is having trouble making friends, here are some things you can do to support them: 

  • Encourage your child to greet other people in a way they are comfortable (wave, high-five, hug, fist-bump). You can start with family members and work your way towards addressing someone new and saying hello and/or introducing themselves. 
  • Plan a playdate at home. Shy children may feel more comfortable in their own space or around people they are familiar with. 
  • Start small and build trust. When you plan a playdate or social activity, have a clear beginning and end time to ease any anxiety and build social competence and confidence. Expose your child little by little in small increments. 
  • Talk to your child about friendship. Reading stories, talking through scenarios, playing games, or role-playing can all help develop relationship building skills. 
  • Show off your social skills and relationship building through encouragement and modeling. Be sure to praise friendly behaviors - such as taking turns, inclusive play, and showing empathy.


More Information From Your K-12 School Counselors!


Having children begin to understand the value in friendships is essential in fostering healthy relationships. It’s a part of growing up and helps in the development of children’s social and emotional skills. It helps build confidence, self-esteem, and communication skills among many others. Healthy friendships can be empowering for children and build on interests and establish a sense of community! Click here to learn more on why friendships are important and for skills kids can learn on how to make and keep friends! 

Middle School

In the adolescent years, relationships and friendships play a major role in identity development. Trust becomes a key point in relationships while their values and ideas expand. Through these connections teens and pre-teens learn a lot about who they are becoming and who they want to be as individuals. Middle schoolers continue to imitate behaviors and learn from those they trust most. As parents/guardians there are many things that can be put into practice in order to teach healthy characteristics in friendships/relationships. This article outlines some examples of positive characteristics, as well as red flags to watch out for, when it comes to making connections.

High School

Recognizing the aspects of relationships that make them unhealthy or unsafe is a significant part of understanding how to cultivate relationships that are healthy and happy.  During the month of May, high school students will receive information about recognizing and responding to different unhealthy relationship dynamics, including potential abuse, cyberbullying and bullying, digital dangers, and other aspects of unhealthy relationships. 

Students will receive this information either in person through S2S or through pre-recorded videos and other resources available through the Monique Burr Foundation. This knowledge will support students in keeping themselves and others safe and healthy, and will teach them important skills about how to cultivate healthy relationships in their own lives. Students who have formally opted out will not be responsible for this School Counseling lesson.  


If you suspect your child is experiencing any difficulties whether academically, socially, or emotionally, please encourage them to seek the support of their school counselor or other trusted adults.


May Dates of Recognition

Mental Health Awareness Month

May 3-7 - Teacher Appreciation Week

May 6  - Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

May 12  - National School Nurse Day

May 31  -   Memorial Day





Child Mind Institute (2021). Kids Who Need a Little Help to Make Friends. Retrieved from  

CASEL (2020). Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. SEL: What are the core competence areas and where are they promoted? Retrieved from .  

Delariyala, A. (2020). Adolescent Counseling Services. Developing Healthy Relationships in Adolescence. Retrieved from,and%20work%20together%20to%20compromise .

Iannelli, V. (2020). Very Well Family. How Kids Make and Keep Friends. Retrieved from