Teaching Relationship Skills in the Elementary Classroom in 2022

If you are an elementary teacher looking for tips and ideas for teaching relationship skills, then you found the right place! This post includes tons of information about the SEL topic, relationship skills.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) created a social emotional learning (SEL) framework. This SEL framework includes five core competencies – one of which is relationship skills. Teaching relationship skills is an essential part of social emotional learning curriculum.

This post answers the following questions teachers have about teaching relationship skills:

  • What are relationship skills?
  • Why is teaching relationship skills important?
  • How can I help my students improve their relationship skills?
  • What are some tips I can share with my students’ families about helping their child improve their relationship skills?

What are Relationship Skills? 

Relationship skills are the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with various diverse individuals and groups of people. People who have relationship skills are able to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist negative social pressure, negotiate through conflict in a constructive matter, and seek and offer help when needed. 

Why are Relationship Skills Important? 

Skills in this area are important because people consistently need them throughout their lives. Relationship skills enhance the ability of students to communicate and connect with a range of people in healthy ways. Relationship skills are also important to be taught because they are not innate. Given the receptive and expressive difficulties that many students experience, relationship skills can be tough to learn to develop and maintain healthy relationships. 

A Deeper Dive into Relationship Skills

Below is more information to know before teaching relationship skills to your students.


Effective communication is essential for developing relationship skills. Effective communication involves both verbal and nonverbal skills. Self-awareness skills are a huge part of communication because effective communication involves speaking clearly and conveying ideas clearly, but also understanding body language, facial expressions, and gestures. Effective communication involves understanding how those contribute to perception of the message being conveyed. 

Social engagement

Social engagement involves being able to resist inappropriate social pressure, as well as the ability to productively work with other people. It also involves civic responsibility and teaching kids about community service and how to interact with their community.  


Relationship building is the key to students being able to form and maintain healthy relationships inside and outside of school. All of the other SEL competencies come together to create students who know how to be a healthy friend and build strong relationships. 


Teamwork involves students being able to work together in a diverse group of people who are similar and different than them. They are able to negotiate conflict constructively, listen actively and clearly communicate ideas, cooperate with others, and to seek and offer help when needed. 

5 Strategies for Helping Kids Improve Relationship Skills

Below are 5 teaching strategies for helping students improve their relationship skills.

1. Group activities

The first strategy for teaching relationship skills on the list is group activities. They will help students practice the skills necessary to work on a team. Closely observe your students to see how they do with conflict resolution, hearing everyone’s ideas, and responding appropriately. Reteach the relationship skills that they need practice with. 

2. Changing seats

Change around where your kids sit for their independent work space, whether that be moving desks or moving where students sit at table groups. Give students the opportunities to sit with and talk to new people, forming new relationships. 

3. Role playing

Role play is a great way to practice relationship skills by having students think about how they would behave in certain situations. It better prepares them to handle conflicts when they arise and practice conflict-resolution skills. 

4. Read alouds

Read alouds are a great way for students to see conflicts as they arise in the book and to see how the characters solve the conflict. Pause to talk about what the conflict is, what caused the conflict, who was involved, and how they chose to solve the conflict. Discuss whether or not your students agree with how they solved the conflict.

5. Playing games

The last strategy for teaching relationship skills on the list is playing games. Games like Simon Says promote active listening skills which are an important part of communication and relationship building. It has students practice listening and responding appropriately. 

5 Tips for Families

Below are 5 tips teachers can share with their students’ families after they introduce and teach relationship skills in class.

1. Create opportunities for your child to build relationships

Have play dates, do extracurricular activities, or have them spend time with other family members. Spending time around these people will facilitate relationships and you can observe how your child interacts with peers. 

2. Have your child turn to peers

When appropriate when playing with other kids, have your child turn to their peer to answer their questions. If they are wondering how to play a certain game or use a toy a certain way, have them turn to a peer if they come and ask you how to do it. 

3. Talk to your child about relationships

Talk to your child about the relationships and friendships that you have and how to maintain them. In addition, talk about conflicts that arise in your day and how you worked through solving the conflicts. Conversations and modeling will make relationship building and conflict resolution feel more real to your child when they see real life examples from their role models. 

4. Read them stories

Read your child stories to promote active listening and discussion. Pause during the story to ask your child what is happening in the story. Ask them questions about what the characters are doing, what conflicts are arising, and possible ways they could solve the conflicts. Discuss the book after reading with your child and ask them what happened. Pay attention to what they do and don’t retell. 

5. Teach your child manners

Manners will help your child develop relationships with their peers and show respect to others. Model using manners and saying please and thank you. Positively reinforce your child using manners by complimenting them when it happens. 

We hope you found this post about teaching relationship skills to elementary students helpful! If you did, you may also be interested in these other SEL competency blog posts for teaching self awareness, self management, responsible decision making, and social awareness.

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