- What is a relationship?
- Family relationships
- Life changes
- Arguments and conflict
- Divorce and Separation
- Domestic violence
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- The relationship you have with yourself
- Friends vs. Peers
- Peer pressure
- Social media ‘friends’
- Romantic relationships
- The relationship you have with your community
A relationship is when two or more people have a connection or bond. It is the way two or more people feel and behave towards each other. Relationships might be short or last for a long time. Relationships may be close and very strong, or they can be more distant. They may be healthy or unhealthy. There are many types of relationships.
Sometimes relationships can be difficult and this might make you feel sad, upset, alone, or scared. No matter what you are going through, you’re not alone. Call Childline and someone will be there to support you and help you to cope with the problem – 116
A family is a group of people who are related in some way – whether through blood, marriage, adoption, or foster care.
Families are all different. They can consist of brothers and sisters, cousins, biological parents, foster or step parents, caregivers and grandparents. Families are made up of different people who live together with different ideas and different ways of behaving. This means it’s not always easy to get on with everybody all the time.
No matter how a family is made up, it is the quality of the family relationships that will affect how happy and comfortable everyone is. In a healthy family relationship, all the family members feel safe, accepted, loved and supported. They feel that they can trust each other, and each person knows that they are an important part of the family.
The best ways to develop healthy family relationships include:
- communicating effectively
- respecting one another
- accepting one another even when we are different, or have different opinions or beliefs
- giving and receiving support
- showing that you care
- spending quality time and doing things together
- focusing on your strengths as a family
- using those strengths and working together to sort out problems
It is not always easy though. Even healthy and happy families go through difficult times, and sometimes have disagreements and conflict. This happens in all families. What is important is how family members handle these challenges.
Some of the challenges that families might face
How you think and feel about yourself is really important. The relationship you have with yourself will affect how you treat yourself and the choices you make in life. In order to have healthy relationships, you need to start with your relationship with yourself. This means you need to really get to know yourself. Ask yourself:
- What you like or don’t like?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your dreams and plans for the future?
- What are the things that are really important to you?
- How would you describe yourself?
- How do you treat other people?
- How do you feel about the way you look?
- What are the things that you are good at?
- What do you think you need to improve on?
- How important are other people’s opinions?
It takes many years to answer the question, “Who am I?” And the answers will change as you grow and develop, and experience life.
The more you know yourself, and the more positive you feel about who you are, the better choices you will make about all other relationships.
You also have relationships outside of the family. At school there are children who are around the same age as you, and these are your peers. You may have peers you agree or disagree with, compete with or team up with, peers you admire and peers you don’t want to be like. You might not know all of your peers very well, you might not really like some of them. Friends are the children you know well, like, and get on with, and usually you want to spend a lot of time together. Both peers and friends can have a strong influence in your life.
- Peer pressure/influence
- Social Media “friends”
Friends are way more than just peers. Friends are the people you like, respect, care for, have fun with, share things with, and support, and who DO THE VERY SAME FOR YOU.
We choose our friends. This means if someone is not caring, respectful, supportive, and doesn’t have your best interests at heart, you can choose not to be friends with them.
Remember, a true friend will NOT:
- Force you to do something you don’t want to do, or something that is bad for you or others
- Threaten to end the friendship if you don’t do something
- Gossip about you behind your back
- Stand by while someone bullies you
If someone does any of those things, you know that they are not really a friend, and you can choose not to spend time with them.
You and your friends might not always agree on everything. But friendship means respecting each other, and being there for one another through good times and bad times.
If you think everyone your age likes a certain type of music, you will probably be interested in that music too. If most of the kids your age are wearing a certain style or make of clothing, you might feel like you should also wear that clothing. Even though you might not know all of your peers well, the things they do, and say, the way they behave, can still be a powerful influence in your life.
It might seem like everyone is doing something, or that “all the cool kids” are doing something, which makes you think you have to do it too. It might be something harmless, like wearing a certain style of clothing, or hairstyle. Or, it might be something harmful, like smoking, or under-age sex. Some of your peers, or people you thought were your friends might even try to get you to do these things. (Remember, if someone tries to get you to do something harmful, they are not a true friend.)
This is called peer pressure. It is the pressure you feel to do something because others are doing it or trying to get you to do it. Peer pressure, or influence, can be positive or negative.
The reason you feel like you should do what your peers are doing is that most people want to feel normal. Most people want to fit in, and can even be afraid of being different. This is very normal.
The problem is if you start to act and behave in a way that is disrespectful, unkind or hurtful towards others. Or, if you start to do things that are unhealthy or dangerous to yourself or others, like smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, or breaking the law.
The important thing to remember is that if what others are doing goes against your values and beliefs, or it is unhealthy, harmful or dangerous to you or others, there is no good reason for you to do it.
Remember, being different is not a bad thing. You might worry that you will have less friends or be bullied if you look different, think, or dress, or act differently from most of your peers. BUT you have to know who you are (see: Your relationship with yourself)
- What are your beliefs and values? (your religious beliefs, what is important to you, like honesty, respect, uBuntu, kindness)
- What are your likes and dislikes?
- What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
There are some things we cannot change about ourselves (our gender, race, age, sexual orientation, ability/disability), and some things we should not change about ourselves (eg. wanting to do well at school, being kind and helpful, standing up for someone being bullied). If anyone has a problem with any of these things, then being different is the best thing to do!
Positive peer pressure/influence:
You might not hear a lot about it, but peers can have a very positive influence on each other
- Friendship. You can find friendship and acceptance, and share experiences that can build lasting bonds.
- Positive examples. Peers can set plenty of good examples for each other. Having peers who are committed to doing well in school or to doing their best in a sport can influence you to be more goal-oriented, too. Peers who are kind and loyal influence you to build these qualities in yourself. Even peers you’ve never met can be role models. Watching someone your age compete in a sport, play in a band or lead a community project might inspire you to go after a dream of your own.
- Feedback and advice. Along with your friends, peers can also listen and give you feedback as you try out new ideas, explore belief and discuss problems. Peers can help you make decisions, too and even give each other good advice. Your good friends will be quick to tell you when they think you’re making a mistake or doing something that is not good for you.
- Socialising. Your peer group gives you opportunities to try out new social skills. Getting to know lots of different people your age gives you a chance to learn how to expand your circle of friends, build relationships and work out differences.
- Peers can encourage you to work hard to get the position in the tea, help you study, listen and support you when you’re upset or troubled and empathise with you when they’ve experienced similar difficulties.
- New experiences. Your peers might get you involved in clubs, sports or religious groups. Your world would be boring without peers to encourage you listen to music you’ve never heard before or to offer moral support when you audition for the school play.
Tips for dealing with negative peer pressure:
- Say ‘no thanks’ – it’s not always easy, but you can do it
- Find others who agree with you and also want to say ‘no’
- Choose your friends wisely (see Friendship)
- Work out plans with your friends for dealing with peer pressure situations
- Avoid situations where you might feel pressured into doing something you feel is not right for you
- Speak to your parents or a trusted adult about how you are feeling
- Know yourself, believe in yourself, and focus on your future
If you are struggling to deal with peer pressure, call Childline 116
With social media, peer pressure, and the pressure to have hundreds of “friends” and followers, it’s easy to forget what true friendship is. Social media uses the word “friend” in a totally different way – the word ‘friend’ on social media doesn’t always refer to someone you know well, trust, respect, share with, and support. On social media you might be ‘friends’ with people you have never met face to face, people that you never talk to, and even people who might be lying about who they really are.
This is why it is important to be safe online – you don’t always know who the person behind the profile really is.
The best way to determine who your real friends are is to remember that friends are the people you like, respect, care for, have fun with, share things with, and support, and who DO THE VERY SAME FOR YOU.
You don’t have to have lots of friends. The most important thing is to have genuine friends.
Sometimes we develop very strong feelings about someone – we call it falling in love. But what does this mean? This feeling can cause you to feel butterflies in your tummy, make your hands sweat, your heart beat faster, and even stop you from being able to talk to that person. You might daydream about the person, and feel like you can’t stop thinking about them, and especially wondering if they like you too.
These feelings are very normal, and might start to happen when you start puberty. No one can control who they feel this way about. But, having these feelings does not mean acting on them.
First of all, are you ready for a boyfriend/girlfriend? This is a difficult question to answer, because everyone is different. You need to think about things like your family’s values and beliefs, your culture and religion, and your own values. You need to know what you think a relationship like this means. Does it mean love letters and holding hands? Does it mean doing fun things together? Does it mean hugging and kissing? Like friendship, this kind of relationship must be based on care, respect, good communication, honesty, and consent.
How well do you know the person? It is possible to have a crush on someone you don’t know that well, but love is much more than that, and to love someone, you need to know them.
Does the person feel the same way about you? Remember, No means No. If the person you have feelings for does not have those feelings for you, you must respect that. Or if the person does like you, but is not ready or doesn’t want to do certain things, you must also respect that. No one has the right to force or pressurise another person into doing something they don’t want to do.
Rejection doesn’t feel nice, but you can’t force someone to feel a certain way. Just be patient, and you will meet someone and both have the same feelings.
You need to think about all these questions, and many more, before you decide if it is love, and if or how to act on it. For more questions and answers about healthy relationships, check out these awesome videos on www.amaze.org : https://amaze.org/?topic=healthy-relationships
In South Africa we talk about uBuntu – “I am because we are.” All of us are a part of a community. We are all connected to our community in some way. And our community might be a positive or negative one.
In a healthy community you feel like you belong, you are safe, and you want to be an active part of your community. You know where you can go for help, and you want to help others if you can. This is how we wish all communities would be.
But sometimes children and their families don’t feel like they belong or are safe in their community. There might be lots of crime, gangsterism and violence, and other problems like alcohol and substance abuse. Or the community might discriminate against a child and their family because of their race, culture, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, or ill health. These problems can make children feel unsafe and unhappy in their community.
If you feel unsafe, or like you don’t belong, speak to your parents or caregivers about it. Or, you can call Childline any time on 116.