Building new relationships can feel intimidating. This is especially true for children and teens who have experienced trauma. Youth hurt or abandoned by loved ones may be scared to trust again. Teens jaded by ongoing let-downs may expect the worse and not pursue new friendships. Children not given the opportunity to form healthy attachments to their caregivers may not even know where to start.

School is a great place to start building relationships, especially at the start of a new year. And each one of those relationships has the ability to make a difference. As this Paces Connections handout shows, “Changing a person’s life for the better can happen with a positive connection with just one person.”

There are the obvious opportunities to form friendships with peers. Every student could use a friend, lunch buddy, or homework helper. And for those not quite ready for a relationship, they can still interact with their “friendlies.” These are school acquaintances that offer a wave in the hallway or a smile on the bus. They can also look for connections beyond their classmates, learning from someone older or sharing with someone younger.

Ideally, students also make connections with safe adults at school. Teachers work with them on a personal basis. Coaches and aides offer words of encouragement. Counselors, nurses, and social workers keep their confidences and enhance wellbeing. Support staff show up for them again and again. Administrators act as positive role models.

Beyond the walls of the school, students have an even broader pool of influencers. Bus drivers. Officers. Neighbors. Tutors. CASAs. Maybe YOU?

There are so many positive connections that can be made during the school year. Let’s be open to them. Pursue them. Build upon them… because connected children have the confidence to pursue a brighter future.