So, you have heard all about physical health and the steps we need to take to support it.
You have heard all about mental health and what we need to do to support that.
However it seems that something very important has still been missed. This is Relationship Health and the steps we need to take to support it, across the lifespan, and in all of our relationships with children and with adults.
Relationship Health is an idea that has been surprisingly overlooked given just how important it is for so many outcomes that matter for children and adults in mental health, physical health, education, and crime...
Even our healthy relationships involve intense experiences that include the joys of feeling connected and the heart break of feeling disconnected. Relationships that have become unhealthy involve intense experiences that can be really significant and overwhelming
Relationship Health like physical health and mental health is something that we can ignore and take for granted or it is something that we can be intentional about. The support of others can make a real and meaningful difference.
We are all born with a need for relationships - sometimes to different degrees. However the skills involved are complex and sensitive and impacted by our experiences so difficult experiences can leave children and adults feeling bruised and cautious.
Also, some people find relationship skills much easier than others - in this way we can come into the world wired a bit differently. What this means is that some infants and children take to relationships very effortlessly and others need more active support. So there is lots of individual variability
However, when we take into account that key aspects of the development of our skills in relationships starts in the earliest years of life then it becomes clearer why support matters. With effective support children can develop a sophisticated understanding of how to navigate relationships with others. However when we have our individual differences, or difficult things have happened and/or when effective support has not been present at key moments then children can fail to develop quite basic steps (such as trusting others, or trusting themselves) and these gaps can act like a hidden often overlooked disability that contributes to life with others feeling sometimes very overwhelming.
Encouragingly, what the new research is also showing us most clearly is that even when there have been delays or challenges, it is not too late for anyone to be helped to recover a pathway in which relationship health confidence can grow again.
When a child or adult has lost confidence in other human beings, then the return of confidence requires the patience and kindness and determination of individuals and communities who are ready to offer a new experience.
What this means is that when any individual decides to invest in their own understanding and in their own relationship health, this can ripple out and impact on others'. This is the really good news: each time we take steps in our own relationship health journey, the more we are able to observe accurately and the more we become able to help others.
An exciting detail is that when we change ourselves what is around us can change! So there is no need to wait for others to take action - anyone can decide to make small steps in that direction today.
Margaret Mead stated
' Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has'
Just imagine if our communities decided to rethink our everyday practices with relationship health in a central place. How would this change everything?
So take a think about your current relationships... which ones come to mind that need some urgent attention....?
What specific actions could you take... ?
Today or this week?
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Dr Cathy Betoin
Clinical Psychologist, Teacher, Parent
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