Our Education Programme Development Co-ordinator Hannah Partis writes about some of her key takeaways from the Family Links' 25th Anniversary conference in April 2022.

"Positive relationships can only thrive in a school which is truly committed to the wellbeing of every adult and child in that school community." Listening to speaker Liz Burton, a recently retired head teacher, at this year’s Family Links conference was inspiring. All leaders need to "walk the talk," she continued. “It makes a difference.”

With these words she showed how leaders who champion healthy, dependable relationships create an environment where people and relationships can thrive. As I was to find throughout the day, I was seeing the Principles of Excellence in Relationship Education reflected in practice - and it was exciting to see.

This year, Family Links: The Centre for Emotional Health marks its 25th Anniversary and this in-person national conference was an amazing way to celebrate. Family Links is one of nineteen organisations that joined Fastn on the Principles of Excellence in Relationship Education.

I was delighted to be invited to this event on behalf of Fastn. Through research and work with families and in education, the shared aim of the individuals and organisations participating is that every child and adult is able to realise their potential, enjoy positive relationships and live healthy and fulfilled lives.

It was fantastic to hear from so many great speakers. Professor Eamon McCrory zoomed in from Berlin to tell us about brain adaptations in children who have faced adversity. He highlighted how important it is for the adults and systems around children and young people to support them as they grow and develop.

The speakers that followed highlighted the importance of nurturing the emotional health of babies from the womb up to the teenage years. They stressed the importance of building a community with strong relationships from early on in life and said that schools are in a fantastic position to support this.

Another highlight for me was Dr John Coleman's journey around the teenage brain. I was fascinated to learn that it was only in 2000 that we found out that remarkable changes happen in the teenage brain. As the brain ‘recalibrates’, it not only impacts behaviour but provides a window of opportunity when adults can support the growth and development of young people.

These advances in science can support parents’ understanding of the teenage brain and, therefore, their relationships with their children.

It’s clear that it is more important than ever for us to support children and young people with their relationship learning. Adults, as role models and decision makers, have a vital role to play.

As well as modelling healthy, dependable relationships, adults can give children and young people the opportunity to experience positive relationships, too. We now understand that this will impact their growth and development and the relationships they have throughout their lives.

I came away deeply impressed by and grateful for the excellent work Fastn’s partner Family Links is doing to support families and schools as they navigate these challenges.