Promote Peer Bonds is a young person’s experience with an adult who helps them work with peers in teams and groups, creating a safe space to learn with and from one another, exploring similarities and differences, and developing deep bonds and relationships.

Promoting peer bonds involves supporting young people to share and value one another’s unique perspectives, experiences, strengths, and ideas. This is a Foundational Experience for young people, bolstering all other PYD practices measured by Hello Insight.


WHY IS PROMOTING PEER BONDS IMPORTANT?

When staff promote peer bonds, young people increase their self-confidence and life skills, academic motivation, as well as leadership skills and disposition (Search Institute, 2020). Promoting peer bonds has also been shown to increase high school and academic engagement, improve young people’s academic achievement, and enhance their general well-being (Donlan, A. E., et al., 2015).

In addition to the program benefits of promoting peer bonds, there are also larger societal benefits. Racism, sexism, and homophobia often come from a place of ignorance or a lack of social contact with others who are different from us. Exposing diverse
groups of young people to each other and encouraging them to learn from each other
by listening to their experiences can go a long way in breaking down these divisive viewpoints. It can also build their critical consciousness, empathy, and positive self- identity (Sabo Flores, K., 2020; Richards-Schuster, K. et al., 2019).

DISCOVERIES FROM HELLO INSIGHT

Young people are dynamic and full of promise, with many different pathways to success. Every year Hello Insight mines our growing dataset of more than 125,000 young people, participating in more than 1,500 programs nation-wide, so that we can continue to learn what works for each and every young person.

Hello Insight has found that Promoting Peer Bonds between young people is
a Foundational Experience, bolstering SEL growth for all ages, genders, and ethnicities. It is critical for SEL growth amongst young men, especially those
ages 16 or older. It is also critical for young people of color (those identifying themselves as Black or African American, Latinx, Asian or Indian, or two or more races). Promoting Peer Bonds works well when combined with efforts to engage authentically and expand young people’s interests and possibilities. Together, these experiences increase the likelihood of promoting SEL development.

Download the Reflection Guide

RESOURCES

Active Listening

MindTools
A key component of teamwork is listening, but how often do we teach it? This article includes everything you need to know to become an active listener or to build a lesson around active listening. We like it both as a component of a professional development session with staff and as a lesson for young people.

Guiding Questions:

  • How and when do we actively listen to young people?
  • How do we teach them to actively listen to one another?
  • How can we improve active listening in our program?

Stages of Group Development

MindTools
Forming a team takes time, and young people often go through recognizable stages as they change from being a collection of strangers to a united group with common goals. This resource describes these stages: Forming, Storming and Norming. We especially like this theory because it helps adults to step back and identify where young people are in the process, without judgement. It also provides helpful tips about how to help young people move through the various states.

Guiding Questions:

  • How and when do I promote team building?
  • How can I support young people to move through the various stages of developing and working on a team?

Nurturing Collaboration

Edutopia
This article provides specific information on the ways to nurture young people working in groups. We like this resource because it provides five easy tips that can be implemented in any setting.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I put these five tips into practice in our program?
  • What tips might young people come up with if I asked them?

Maintaining Positive Group Dynamics

My-Peer Toolkit
When you intentionally match young people from different communities, backgrounds, ethnicities, and life experiences, they can learn from each other’s experiences and strengths. This resource includes best practice guidelines for maintaining positive group dynamics.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do I encourage discussions about the diverse life experiences of our youth?
  • How are our staff prepared to facilitate discussions about diversity and inclusion?

Creating Safe Spaces

My-Peer Toolkit
When working with young people on teams or in groups, it is necessary to develop a safe space that allows young people to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. This resource includes the best practices of setting group norms and promoting supportive relationships.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do I encourage and nourish empathy and inclusion?
  • What more should we be doing to ensure young people feel safe to participate?

Supporting School Community Wellness with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) During and After a Pandemic

Pennsylvania State University
This brief on the current crises in schools due to COVID and increasing racial tension in the US, provides many ways to allow young people to express their concerns. These shared experiences will strengthen peer bonds.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can expressing concerns help young people rely on one another and strengthen peer bonds?
  • What other ways can our shared traumas build stronger friendships?

Unversal Framework

Skillsbuilder
Helping young people learn to listen is an important part of their being able to bond with others their age. This detailed worksheet, part of the Skills Builder rubric, focuses specifically on using Open Questions as a listening technique. Other techniques are also included.

Guiding Questions:

  • What makes a good listener?
  • Why is good-listening an important skill to master?