ResilientKids™ Teacher Guide

Relationship Skills & Social-Awareness

This section defines the key concepts covered in this chapter. These are the central themes upon which the activities are based.


Relationships are threaded through every facet of our lives — playgroups, reading groups, soccer teams, debate teams, neighbors, roommates, work colleagues, and parents. We first define community; then, we address how we are in relationships with one another and what qualities facilitate connection.


Kindness can be offered toward oneself and to others. A pro-social behavior, kindness is an important element in bringing communities together. In fact, research shows that kindness breeds kindness. We build on the self-compassion work from Chapter 2, increasing self-care while also turning the focus of kind acts toward others as well.


Compassion is defined as an awareness of others’ suffering and a desire to alleviate it. This cognitive understanding of how others are feeling helps us take action. Scientific evidence is beginning to show that practicing compassion leads to increased well-being, happiness, optimism and resilience to stress, as well as a reduction in vindictiveness toward others.


Empathy is vicariously experiencing the feelings of another, even when the thoughts and feelings aren’t expressly communicated. To experience empathy is to be present with someone who is suffering without needing to fix or change their experience. We are born with the capacity to be empathetic. Children as young as two are able to notice when someone doesn’t feel the same way they do. As children mature, this ability needs to be nurtured in order to grow. This happens within trusting relationships and with encouragement and positive feedback. Cultivating empathy has been shown to reduce bullying, build positive peer relationships, better communication skills, and fewer interpersonal conflicts.

Empathy has two parts. The first is acknowledging the feelings we get in response to others’ feelings and emotions. This means seeing the suffering in someone’s eyes and feeling it with the person. Secondly, showing empathy also requires us to take the perspective of another person. In order to do this effectively, we need to be grounded enough that we can bear witness without pitying the other person, trying to fix the situation, or only seeing the bright side.


Robert Emmons, one of the leading researchers on the science of gratitude, describes its two essential components. The first, he says, is an affirmation of good — that there are good things in the world. The second is the social component, where we acknowledge that there are others involved in our joy and appreciation of gifts both large and small. He describes gratitude as an “relationship-strengthening emotion.” Gratitude pushes us to see the best in ourselves and others, and to appreciate the little things around us every day.  Studies show that practicing gratitude leads to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others.


A point-of-view or interpretation of something, our perspective can change on a regular basis. Checking in, asking why and getting curious are all a part of perspective-taking, and require that we are really present. This allows us to see things as they really are, as opposed to believing what we think. Perspective-taking also supports a greater sense of empathy, another area focus of this chapter.


The benefits of empathy, compassion, gratitude and kindness, the core themes of this chapter, are well-documented in the neuroscience. Learned and developed over time, these pro-social behaviors help to build stronger relationship skills and social awareness. We include the brain science in age-appropriate ways to aid students’ understanding and development of these critical skills.

This section offers direction as to where the program is headed in this chapter and some notes about things to look for in your students as you answer the reflection questions at the end of Chapter 3.


Communication is essential to having successful interactions, making and maintaining connections, cooperating with others, and building community — all central to this chapter’s themes of social awareness and relationship building. Listening and communicating well are skills that will serve our students throughout their lives. In fact, communication is often at the top of the list of soft skills that hiring managers seek. When we can understand and be understood through both verbal and non-verbal communication, we foster authentic connections with those around us. With a strong sense of self-awareness, we can begin to develop critical skills of listening and displaying nonreactive responses and behaviors when engaging with others.


Continuing to practice self-compassion, while also expanding our heartfulness efforts lay the foundation for nurturing this capacity. Students will begin to notice how they feel when they do something kind and show respect, and how their action supports communities.


Part of mindfulness is being nonreactive. Building upon the self-awareness work of Chapter 2, students’ self-knowledge, growth mindset and ability to find an anchor will help strengthen their ability to be present and take a little space for perspective. It is in this space that we can decipher situations and gain a clearer understanding of what is really going on. Students’ self-awareness will also help them avoid autopilot behavior and develop an interest and curiosity in the world around them. This helps students become increasingly observant and find gratitude in the little things. Ultimately, it is in the present moment that we find the freedom from worry and stress, allowing us to connect authentically, listen intently and show up fully.


Connections are part of our nature as social beings. We thrive on connection to feed our soul, to give and receive support when needed, and to give us purpose. Having authentic connections supports our mental wellbeing and physical health, and helps us to live longer. Whether in person, over Zoom, across social media channels, or just through a good old fashioned letter hand-delivered with a stamp, being connected is a fundamental human need. With explicit opportunities to build empathy and compassion, and to practice gratitude, perspective-taking and kindness, we are teaching pro-social behaviors and planting seeds for developing and maintaining healthy connections.

The questions on the Chapter 3 Teacher Reflection Form are listed below so you can keep them in the back of your mind as you progress through the chapter.

1. Have your students increased their ability to engage with the present moment?

A. If yes, how have you seen this demonstrated by your students?

B. If no, what was missing or prevented them from being able to do this?

2. Do your students know how to show respect for themselves and others?

A. If yes, which of the following practices has helped with this?

B. If no, what was missing or prevented them from being able to do this?

3. Do your students show deeper connections, stronger communication skils and an understanding of how these foster a greater sense of community?

A. If yes, how have you seen this demonstrated by your students?

B. If no, what was missing or prevented them from being able to do this?

4. Please provide an example of how the gratitude lessons landed with students.

5. Please provide an example of how the kindness lessons landed with students.

6. Have you noticed that students are able to consider another perspective — either a person's or in a situation?

A. If yes, how have you seen this happening?

B. If no, what prevented students from doing this?

7. Please use this box to provide any additional information you would like us to know.

high res_CFR full identity WHITE (1)

© 2021 Center for Resilience. All Rights Reserved.