Tackling loneliness by building nurturing connections

9 May 2022

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year aims to highlight the impact of loneliness.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that loneliness affects millions in the UK every year, and is a key driver of poor mental health. A 2018 report from the ONS found that 45% of children aged 10-15 felt lonely ‘often’ or ‘some of the time’. This stark statistic exposes the problem of loneliness in children and young people, even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Barnardo’s identified in their 2020 report the need to develop relationship-based programmes that support children to rebuild connections that were disrupted as a result of isolation during the pandemic. This key recommendation can be implemented through nurturing approaches that focus on relationships and connection. 

“A nurturing approach recognises that positive relationships are central to both learning and wellbeing. It recognises that all school staff have a role to play in establishing the positive relationships that are required to promote healthy social and emotional development… A nurturing approach has a key focus on the school environment [incorporating] attunement, warmth and connection…” – Education Scotland, Applying Nurture as a Whole School Approach

Loneliness in children can be expressed in many different ways, including “disguised expressions of anger, or physical distance from the teacher” (IJNE, Vol. 2, p17). We know that all behaviour is communication, and schools have a vital role to play in understanding these behaviours, and building connections with children and young people. 

The nurturing approach offers a safe base for children struggling with loneliness to build positive relationships and connections, both with their peers and their teachers. Nurturing interventions, including the whole-school approach, focus on emotional wellbeing for all pupils, and help them to develop social and emotional skills, and develop resilience. 

This week, we will spend time highlighting the issue of loneliness amongst children and young people, and discussing how nurturing approaches can be used to help build positive connections and relationships. Be sure to follow us on social media for advice and resources on building meaningful connections with children and young people, or for more information on implementing nurture interventions in your school, please visit our website.