Cultivating emotional connectedness

Children at Woodstock School

Cultivating emotional connectedness

Fascinating research published by the American Medical Association reports the results of a survey on over 90,000 teenagers – one of the largest ever carried out. The research concluded that ‘emotional connectedness’ was the single most significant factor in protecting young people from emotional distress, violent behaviour, substance abuse and early sexual experimentation – and also in helping them to develop self-discipline in their lives.

The message is clear; if we can develop this ‘connectedness’ we will create an environment in which children will be most likely to grow up into emotionally fulfilled, happy and responsible adults. But what does this mean in practice? How do we actually achieve this?  Four critical factors have been identified:

Build relationships

The quality of relationship between adult and child is the key. When that relationship is characterised by trust, integrity and honesty many other good things will follow as a natural consequence.

Set expectations

We must clearly define what we expect of children. We can’t leave them to guess what we expect – there are far too many conflicting life-styles competing for attention today for guesswork to be any use at all!  Regular, gentle reminders of our expectations are crucial if children are to develop a sense of right and wrong.

Develop independence

We must deliberately prepare young people for adult life.  This means gradually removing petty restrictions, allowing them to learn from mistakes and offering real opportunities for them to grow independence.

Stay connected

We do this by taking time to provide care, guidance and a listening ear. It also involves modelling openness, respect and civility to our children.

We cannot predict what challenges our children will face in the future. But one thing is sure – their ability to successfully face these challenges will depend upon our ability to create a kind and caring environment right here and right now

Dr Jonathan Long, Principal

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