Friends & Relationships: 

One of the keys to young people’s healthy development is their ability to build and maintain positive relationships both at home and with their peers. Think about it – how many young people do you know that struggle at school not because of the difficulty of the work, but because of issues at home, bullying or issues with their friends?

And yet – how much time do we actually spend supporting young people with their relationships? Very little in comparison I would wager…

A key place to start is to encourage young people to think about from where do they learn what a healthy relationship should look like? What influences their attitudes to their friends and how a family should work…? How positive and how realistic are these role models?

Obviously, the first key influence for children in how relationships should look, will be formed from their experience of family life at home – how supportive their parent’s  have been through early development and how their family members interact. This will have a massive effect on all their future relationships – on how they deal with conflict; what kind of support strategies they employ; their resilience and stability… Unfortunately, this is also the one area for which we have little or no influence – families are families – they are diverse and chaotic by their very nature. As a school we can only react to, and try to undo any damage that may have been caused during those early years…

Some children are lucky and will grow up in a supportive and caring household where they feel safe and are given the love and independence they need to develop skills and resilience to enable them to cope… however, a lot of children are not that lucky…

Some will come into our care, having grown up in environments that are unsafe, having had to shoulder responsibilities that far out weight their years… or alternatively molly-coddled and wrapped in cotton wool depriving them of independence and self confidence.

Nevertheless, teenagers will spend more of their time at school and with their peers during the academic year than they do with their families meaning we can provide a massive shift in attitudes and behaviour if we help young people gather a more objective view of from where their ideas have been formed and offer alternatives.

Indeed, many young people are never given the opportunity to step back from an issue – to talk through what they think and offered new perspectives to consider…

Asking the question: what influences our ideas of what a relationships should look like; exploring the factors that effect our judgements, is a fantastic place to start. Look at different types of families, look at the soaps we watch, the dramas, the Hollywood movies, the ‘reality’ tv shows… the magazines and adverts that present a particular view of the world… of gender roles and responsibilities…

When we watch any films in class – ask about the relationships – ask what advice a good friend would give – encourage young people to look at the support networks and unpick how healthy the relationships are that are being displayed.

At the end of the day – we can not pick our families – but we can pick our friends and partners. The relationships we choose can have a massive effect on the opportunities and risks we are presented with. Peer pressure can be both a positive and negative thing. If we surround ourselves with positive, supportive people – there is no reason why we can’t thrive and manage the struggles we face… if however, we choose people who bring us down, who use us, make us feel unloved or worthless – how are we supposed to reach our full potential?

What qualities should we be looking for in our friends? – what are our rights (and equally what responsibilities do we have too)…?  How do we deal with our emotions, jealousy, frustration, being hurt. These are all essential conversations to have and topics to encourage young people to explore.

Read the relationships pages to find out more…

 

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