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How Laughology’s PSHE lessons support children to understand and develop positive relationships

muslim schoolgirl doing Laughology PSHE lesson

‘Positive relationships’ is one of the themes in Laughology’s Happy-Centred School PSHE programme. This blog explains why it is so important for children to build positive relationships. It also gives some top tips for PSHE lessons, that you might like to try with your class.

Why are positive relationships so important?

Perhaps this seems like an obvious question? We know that positive relationships:

  • Create a sense of belonging and feeling valued
  • Help to develop our self-confidence
  • Give us a sense of security and comfort
  • Give us an opportunity to communicate openly, without judgement, and try out new ideas
  • Enable us to engage in a wide range of activities, some of which we might not do on our own

But did also you know that, by surrounding ourselves with good friends, we are likely to:

  • Be less stressed, as we have social and emotional support from others. This leads to a reduction in the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) that out bodies produce.
  • Have a greater sense of purpose. As humans, it’s natural to want to feel needed and like being part of something bigger. By helping our friends and family, we know that we are doing something good for someone else.
  • Heal more quickly. This could be because: we’ve got people taking our mind off our ailments; or they could be reminding us to take our medication; or providing us with encouragement and emotional support to get better.
  • Research also suggests that people who have healthy social relationships are more likely to live longer lives than those who don’t.

Don’t children just know how to make friends?

Yes, most children know how to make friends at a basic level. However, there are many reasons why we now need to be explicitly teaching them about positive relationships. Here’s one:

In January 2018, the Children’s Commissioner reported that, ‘The way children use social media and its effects on their wellbeing hits a ‘cliff edge’ when they start secondary school.’

The report states that, ‘Many Year 7 children are finding social media hard to manage and becoming over-dependent on ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ for social validation. They are also adapting their offline behaviour to fit an online image.’

Whilst secondary schools will be working to address this, there is clearly a need for more work to be done in primary schools and homes so that, from a young age, children:

  • Have a better understanding of what does and doesn’t constitute a healthy relationship;
  • Know how to make and evaluate real and virtual friendships;
  • Know how to recognise positive and negative influences and make good decisions in regard to these;
  • Understand the power of pause i.e. stopping and thinking about your words and social media posts and the impact they can have on you and others.

In Laughology’s Happy-Centred School programme there are 6 lessons for each year group, from Foundation Stage to Year 6, which help children to develop these skills, knowledge and understanding. Alongside these lesson plans there are many suggested Philosophy 4 Children questions. Below are a few that you might like to try out.

What P4C questions could we ask?

In Foundation Stage, we might ask, ‘How do we show people that we like them?’

This can lead to discussions about appropriateness, as children consider if it’s okay to kiss and cuddle everyone that they know. They could be prompted to suggest other ways of showing that they like people who they see regularly, but aren’t friends with, such as the shopkeeper. By encouraging children to think about the people in their lives, and their relationships with them, it lays the foundation for ‘what is a real friend?’ conversations, in later years.

In Year 1, ‘Who is responsible for keeping you clean and tidy?’

This question encourages children to take greater responsibility for looking after themselves, their bodies and their belongings. We know the importance of home-school partnership working on this one, so that children receive consistent messages on their journey to becoming more independent. Once you’ve had the P4C session, it’s a great idea to share the gist of the discussion with parents and carers. By doing this, we can all ensure that children take greater responsibility for things like their lunchboxes and book bags, rather than flinging them at the nearest adult as they leave the classroom each afternoon!

In Year 2, ‘How can we tell if something is fair or not?’

Throughout the infants, children develop their own sense of fairness and this can lead to complaints that, ‘It’s not fair’. This is a great age to start thinking about equality and equity (though we may not use those words) and whether or not everybody should be treated in the same way. By asking if people should be treated differently, so that everyone has an equal chance to do their very best, it makes children think more deeply about fairness. This is another good one to share with parents.

In Year 3, ‘Is it a good or bad thing to have friends who don’t always agree with you?’

By the beginning of Key Stage 2, friendships are often well established. Whilst some children have a wide circle of friends and are able to get along with most people, others find this trickier. Perhaps they have one or two friends and struggle if these people are off ill for the day. Or they might have friends with whom they regularly squabble. We can shift some of the rigid thinking around friendship, by helping the children to understand that people can have different opinions and still be good friends. This conversation also gives children the opportunity to think about conflict resolution and how they manage their feelings when they have disagreements.

In Year 4, ‘Can you think of a time when you have tried to find out more about others’ values, beliefs and opinions?

All schools now teach children about British Values. At Laughology, we believe that children should be supported to develop great human values, such as empathy and kindness. To do this they need to seek to understand. By asking how much we know about others’ faiths, beliefs and opinions, some children may start to realise that they don’t know that much about their peers. It’s also a great way to get them to think about any assumptions they may have made and unconscious biases that they may have.

In Year 5, ‘What are your top tips for good personal hygiene?’

Talking about changes to the body is part of the statutory sex and relationship education (SRE) curriculum and anyone who has walked into a year 5 or 6 classroom, in the height of summer, will know why this discussion is a good one to have. Enough said!

In Year 6, ‘What boundaries do you have around your privacy?’

We know that there has been an increase in the number of children and young people sexting and that, in some situations, these images have been circulated more widely. Activities such as ‘upskirting’ now exist, with girls at secondary school reporting that they wear shorts under their skirts to protect themselves. So, as well as thinking about their own virtual and real world privacy, it’s important to encourage children to think about their personal values and ways in which they can respect the privacy of others.

And finally …

We’ve been told by schools that it’s not just the children that benefit from the positive relationship sessions. Staff have said that the lessons also encourage them to stop and reflect on their own friendships, and that this has been really helpful.
Schools that purchase the HCS programme are also able to buy a training session, with a Laughologist, to launch it. As part of this we run a P4C session, which asks staff to debate a

quote from Jim Morrison, the lead singer with The Doors: ‘A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself.’ What do you think?

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Are organisations and companies just paying lip service?
Join some of the most interesting and respected voices in positive psychology for our Our Big Chat about…Thinking outside the tick box, inaugural webinar. Our two and half hour interactive event will look at the best mental health strategies for organisations, identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Dave McPartlin:

Dave is the Headteacher of Flakefleet Primary School.
Creating the right environment for people and communities to flourish

Sunita Hirani

Sunita is one of the BBC’s key equality, diversity and inclusivity experts.
Why inclusion is essential for mental wellbeing

Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Cary is one the world’s most influential voices in occupational health and wellbeing.
Enhancing Mental Wellbeing at Work. Evidence based strategies for creating a wellbeing culture at work.

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