In the last post I looked at the impact on a child who has not been socialised with other children before going to school, and the growing concern of placing babies as young as six months in childcare.
This week I explore the next phase in a child’s development as they move into puberty, their teen years and into adulthood.
There are millions of children who are well adjusted, coping brilliantly with school, friends and the move into secondary education. Their sights firmly fixed on a career that they are best suited for.
However, like me, I am sure that you remember that it only took one disruptive child in a class to make a difference to all the students. The one who requires the most interaction from the teacher, who never excels but always achieves the maximum attention, who is also usually the bully in the playground.
Unfortunately, they are the ones we all end up hearing about as they rampage through their school years, often absent and finding solidarity with like-minded misfits. They are also the ones who find themselves with their fifteen minutes of fame on the front pages of the newspapers.
Here is a short extract from a recent article on knife crime in London, and I am sure it is reflected in many of our major cities whichever country we live in.
“When you speak to gang members and ex-gang members their world is totally different from ours and I think we need to understand that in order to intervene.
“The journeys of some of these young people embroiled in knife crime and gangs are quite similar. Excluded from school, no significant role model in their life, move from place to place, involved in petty crime very early on, come from a household known to social services. All those things, you look at the pattern, it’s all the same. Police have a role, but every profession, every agency has a role to play, so hopefully we intervene in the right places.”
Half of all knife crime offenders in London are teenagers or even younger children, new Met figures have revealed in a stark illustration of the scale of youth violence in the capital.
The police statistics show that 41 per cent of those being caught for knife crimes across London’s boroughs are now aged between 15 and 19.
Another 8 per cent are younger still, ranging in age from ten to 14, in a further sign of how carrying and using blades has become part of life for a minority of troubled young people.
Developing and maintaining relationships into adulthood.
It is tough enough to manage the many diverse relationships with will develop as we move into adulthood, without having been taught how to play well with others as a toddler and then during the early school years.
It can be extremely stressful maintaining relationships across the breadth of our connections. A bit like the performer who spins multiple plates on thin, flexible poles, running frantically around the stage keeping them from falling and smashing on the ground.
It is that stress that erodes the foundations of a relationship and causes so much heartache. Some relationships are very resilient. Especially within a family where children have grown up together and have loved, squabbled and then laughed together. However, there comes a time when we reach an age where our personalities have formed, and we begin to move into different circles of friends and the romantic relationships we discover.
If we have not had a strong sense of belonging within a family, or have had a difficult relationship with either or both of our parents, we can take baggage with us as we form these outside connections. Our expectations of relationships are not high and so it is easy to accept less from interactions than we should.
This inability to form strong and lasting relationships is not just limited to romance but also impacts our job prospects and long-term mental, emotional and physical health.
One of the most important relationships, and often the toughest to maintain is marriage which is embarked on with a view to lasting a lifetime.
Although there has been a steady decrease in the numbers of divorces over the last ten years, last year saw a slight increase for the first time in a decade. This partly down to the inclusion on divorces for same sex marriages which has been legal since 2014.
What is not taken into account is the nearly 4 million families where parents are cohabiting without a formalised agreement, who also have their own statistics with regard to splitting up.
The statistics show that a cohabiting couple is three times more likely to break-up than a marriage. But the more worrying fact of this, is that there are far less legal safeguards for a single parent and their children in these circumstances.
A recent report has identified that Britain has more single parents than almost any country in Europe, and almost one in three of them are unemployed.
“A report has found that of the 1.8million single parent households in Britain, 650,000 of them are not in any sort of work.
This has led to a situation where the average single parent household in the UK claims twice as much in benefit support as the average two-parent household.
The proportion of lone parent households in the UK is the fourth highest in the EU – behind only Estonia, Latvia and Ireland – with 24 per cent of of children being brought up by just one adult”.
More importantly a huge burden of parenting the children in these failed relationships, falls onto the shoulders of just one person, usually the mother.
There is no doubt that most single parents do their very best to ensure their children grow up with a balanced view of relationships. But I do believe that some parents do not appreciate the impact that is made on a child’s future by their actions in their own interactions with others.
Parents are role models, and the way they interact with each other, their own family members, friends and casual contacts, is under scrutiny by a child from a very early age. They learn from their mother’s and father’s knee and will take those lessons with them for their entire lives.
If approximately 42% of marriages end in divorce and a larger number of cohabiting relationships end, how does that impact the views of the children concerned about relationships?
How does a child, who sees a mother struggling to manage to bring them up alone, often with other siblings, see the role of a father, and therefore their future role. How has the lead up to the split, which is likely to have been acrimonious impact them?
It is not likely that it will prepare them adequately for their own relationships in the future.
And it is not only the young whose lives are fractured when a partnership ends. Although many men and women go on to remarry and have long and happy relationships, those whose marriages end in their middle years, find getting back into the dating game very tough and often spend the rest of their lives alone.
Modern relationships are complex.
The world is becoming more integrated and relationships are becoming more complex, not simpler, with the development of technology. Our concept of friendship is changing as we form more relationships online. Many are also turning to technology to find romantic attachments based on a computer algorithm. Six million British men and women look to dating sites to find their perfect match each year. In some countries such as Japan, romantic simulations are becoming increasingly popular, as men and women form virtual relationships that take the place of human interaction.
The dynamics of romantic relationships has changed along with the technology as we have access to the rest of the world, particularly to the pseudo-celebrities.
We are now in the era of the celebrity culture, where fashion, serial relationships and what should be private, is public property. The days of the Hollywood stars misbehaving has been overtaken by the pseudo-celebrities who do little more than remove clothing, have butt lifts and make a fortune selling their ‘brand’ to the media, as they move from fleeting public romance to the next. Having children, it would seem often, as an accessory, or to ensure that they will be taken care of for life, at the almost certain demise of their latest pseudo-relationship . And make fortunes they do, fuelled by the need of the young in particular, to have this glittering lifestyle, all without going out and working 9-5 in some boring dead end job.
It sounds harsh doesn’t it. And as I said at the beginning of this post, there are millions of wonderful young men and women entering marriage and long-term stable relationships, who will go on to be amazing parents.
But they are nowhere to be seen in the headlines. They are not the role models that the media present to the increasing percentage of young people who are desperate to find something to belong to, follow and be a part of. They have nothing to judge these wannabees against.
There are two people in a relationship but it can influence the lives of several more.
A relationship is a two way interaction between individuals and also groups of people. It requires time, patience and tolerance. Great beginnings, particularly in romantic relationships, need to be built on so that the initial chemistry is combined with trust, respect and loyalty. It needs to become a partnership in every sense of the word; there is no room for inflated egos or dominance if it is to succeed.
This applies in friendships, as well as within teams or groups of people that we work with. As in the playground, those who do not know how to communicate, share and support are soon excluded, and I have seen many such individuals, drift from job to job over many years.
Developing healthy relationships is not based on a computer algorithm, but a deep-rooted need to belong that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. A clan provided safety from other humans and also animals, provided more effective food gathering and hunting, and made better use of individuals specific skills. The individual hearths did not only provide heat, light and the ability to cook food, but also the basis of the first families, where men and women shared the care of children by forming strong and stable relationships.
The impact of relationships on physical, mental and emotional health.
Over the years of working with men and women who have come to me looking to improve their health, it is clear that relationship issues play a huge role in in a number of key areas in our lives. This included weight loss and gain, depression and other stress related physical and mental illnesses. Most women and quite a few men that I have counselled with difficulty losing weight have very low esteem and many have projected the cause of that onto their partners.
In fact low self-esteem in this particular instance, is a combination of long-term relationship issues with both the people in our lives going back to childhood, and also the attachments we have formed to food as a source of comfort.
Our desire to change our partners into who we think they should be!
A massive influence on the strength of a relationship is acceptance. One of the major stumbling blocks in any connection we make romantically, within a friendship or a group, is the need to change the other person or people to a version that we feel more comfortable with.
There is an old joke about the woman who searched for twenty-five years for the perfect man only to find him and discover he was looking for the perfect woman!
We all have faults and are less than perfect. It is easy to say. ‘This is who I am, love me or leave me.’ However, this is where the second major influence in relationships comes in.
Compromise is not a sign of weakness, but a willingness to meet someone else half-way, combine positive traits, work on negative issues and still maintain our individual characters within the relationship.
Which brings me to the third ingredient of a good relationship which is patience.
You cannot force someone to change to suit your expectation of what they should be. If you value their individuality then you need to remember that this is one of the main elements that attracted you to them in the first place. Adaptation may happen naturally over time as you live and work together, but it is likely to take years not weeks or even months. Learning everything there is to know about an individual takes a great deal of time and effort and if you are lucky you will still be finding out new things after 30 years in a relationship.
Happiness is a much sought after commodity but unfortunately we tend to place the burden of providing that onto others in our lives. We expect others to make us happy; which is simply not acceptable. Happiness is not an emotion but an expectation that is instilled in us from childhood by our parents, fairy stories, outside influences such as the media in print, film and music. We quickly forget all the simple things that made us feel good in childhood such as playing in the sand, a day at the beach, opening our birthday presents.
As we get older we crave that feel good reaction from everything that we do including at work, in friendships and in relationships. We forget that happiness comes from within; is very individual to us and if a situation is not providing us with it, then we need to examine what we are bringing to the table.
How many times have you stated that ‘ I will be happy when… I have lost two stone, bought a house in the sun or won a million’?
If you explore where you are in your life right now and the relationships that you already have, you might feel that some areas are not as good as they might be, but most already give you every reason to be happy.
It is an interesting exercise to imagine what it would be like if those people, experiences or events were not in your life at all. I think most of us would be devastated to be without them.
Many people associate happiness with what they are given, be it in the form of gifts, friendship or emotions. They fail to realise that we are far more likely to experience that sense of happiness when we are the ones that are giving and not taking. Our happiness is intensified when it is reflected in the face of others in our lives, both personally and in a work environment. The most successful relationships are those where there is a mutual giving of time, love, friendship, support and loyalty.
However, it is very important to recognise that there are times when a relationship of any kind becomes toxic and will never offer you the chance of happiness, however much you give and keep giving. The relationship becomes totally one-sided and without extreme intervention is not going to survive. I know from previous experience how easy it is to hang onto the belief that you can change the situation, but there comes a time when you do have to accept that it can no longer be sustained and that you may have to leave it behind.
Relationships are precious and need nurturing and developing if they are to survive. That applies just as much online as it does with the people in our immediate circle of family and friends. The world is changing and certainly it will be interesting in another 25 years of Internet access, to discover just how much our ability to form relationships will impacted.
©Sally Cronin 2019
You can find the other chapters in the series in this directory… and your feedback is always welcome: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/something-to-think-about/