Healthy, positive relationships are vital for our emotional and physical well-being.
From the moment we are born, human beings form relationships with others: the baby bonds with its parents, a pre-school child places it trust in the nursery teacher and a primary-age pupil makes friends in the school ground.
Every day children and young people mix with others with whom they must form relationships – parents, siblings, other pupils, team mates, boyfriends/girlfriends, etc.
There are the interactions with the other adults in their lives too, e.g. teachers, religious officials, sports coaches, careers advisors and eventually colleagues and employers.
The majority of these relationships will be positive, enriching their lives and helping them learn and develop as individuals. Others are not ideal, but are fleeting with no real harm done, e.g. a first romance.
Signs of a positive relationship
The need to seek and maintain social contact and form relationships is a basic need of all human beings. Some children and young people are sociable and out-going, while others may be quieter and enjoy their own company. Regardless of personality, all have a common need to be accepted by others.
Young people flourish when their relationships are strong and supportive. A positive relationship should bring more happiness than unhappiness into a young person’s life. They should feel good about themselves, not guilty, angry, depressed or upset.
All positive relationships have the following in common:
- mutual respect
- feeling safe from harm
- feeling valued
- empathy – listening and understanding each other.
Signs of a negative relationship
Every relationship will have its ups and downs; however, it is not good for a young person’s long-term well-being for them to remain in a relationship that makes them feel bad about themselves.
In a healthy relationship, one person does not mistreat, threaten or abuse the other. The odd disagreement is normal; however, no young person should remain in a relationship where there is:
- bullying or controlling behavior
- physical violence or threats of violence
- coercion into sexual activity or anything else they don’t want to do, e.g. sexting
Stress and evidence of self-harming can be signs that a young person is struggling with a situation or relationship.
Disabled young people may be vulnerable to mate crime.
Abuse has no place in any relationship, be it personal or professional. If you suspect a child or young person is being abused, report your concerns immediately. Ring the police on 101 or contact your council’s Local Safeguarding Team. In an emergency, call 999. If your concerns are about a child of school age, ask to talk to the school’s designated child protection teacher.
Relate can provide counselling for any young person who's having problems.
Brook offers help and advice about sexual relationships to under 25s.
Childline helps children who are being bullied or abused. Tel: 0800 1111.