Fostering Connectedness: The Importance of Building Strong Relationships

“It did not surprise me in the least when millions of girls started making and sharing friendship bracelets at Taylor Swifts concerts this year. I’ve been involved with the education of girls for over four decades. And there is one thing I know for sure; girls are all about relationships.” Trudy Hall (Podcast; On Educating Girls: The Connected Girl: Episode 1 – ‘Forging Powerful Relationships’)

Over recent weeks, I have been listening to the podcasts conducted by the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools (ICGS) reinforcing and developing the principle of connectedness as a protective force for teenage girls. The series — The Connected Girl — looks at different ways teens forge relationships, and the people that are essential to healthy connection in their lives. It is well documented that the challenges facing teenagers are significant, particularly due to an over reliance on social media. Over the last two years I have found myself using the term, ‘the unseen cost of COVID’, as teens navigate relationships,
anxiety, perfectionism and feelings of disempowerment. In turn, this has become an equally difficult landscape for parents.

We have always known that for girls, feeling connected plays a crucial role in their development and wellbeing. Increasingly, evidence suggests a diverse group of adults in a young person’s life is even more essential than in the past. These roles are often played by parents, wider family networks and teachers. Strong peer and adult relationships help teenagers navigate the complexities of adolescence and assist in maintaining a positive self-image. In turn these relationships shape both social and academic experiences, enabling students to thrive and go on to lead successful lives. As a teenage girl learns to foster and navigate connections, they develop the emotional intelligence and essential social skills that contribute to fulfilling relationships later in life.

This year, as we approach International Women’s Day, let’s continue to work together on building connectedness to empower the positive emotional growth required to support our students in becoming confident and empathetic young women. Let’s celebrate the men and women who are role models to our young women and ensure they are connected. You may never get a ‘friendship bracelet’ but the long-term reward will be greater!

Reference: Youth-Adult Connectedness: A Key Protective Factor for Adolescent Health