Healthy relationships are safe, respectful and kind.
In a healthy relationship, individuals can trust and rely on each other for support, warmth and encouragement. Each person’s feelings and boundaries are valued and respected. Disagreements are bound to happen, but they are resolved fairly and peacefully. Two-way communication exists. Each person feels heard and cared for. At home, with our children, in our communities, at work, around elders, or at school, we can all work to build healthy relationships with these tools to thrive. Continue reading “Tools to Thrive”
“Surrounding children with healthy relationships throughout their childhood not only prevents child abuse and neglect while enhancing healthy childhood development and resiliency, but also provides long-term prevention of domestic, family, school, and criminal violence.”
What constitutes a healthy relationship?
Healthy relationships are emotionally and physically safe, respectful, caring, and never, ever, violent or abusive. Healthy relationships help children grow to be happy, healthy, strong, kind, and productive. Listening to and understanding children creates a win for the child and the community. Hundreds of studies, including those by the likes of Harvard University, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control Neuroscience, demonstrate that providing children with healthy, caring, supportive, violence-and-abuse-free relationships at home, school, and elsewhere dramatically raises the odds of their experiencing emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social, and physical health throughout their childhood and adulthood. Resilient children are more capable of surviving the inevitable knock downs and losses of life, getting back up, recovering, and going on to lead full, constructive and meaningful lives.
Violence always hurts children. A video produced for the state Attorney General’s office, “First Impressions: Exposure to Violence and a Child’s Developing Brain,” speaks to the risks. It cautions, “The younger you are, the more spongelike your brain is. The very same biological sponginess that allows us to rapidly acquire language also makes children more vulnerable to trauma.”
Do you want to prevent violence? Surround children with healthy relationships. Work to reduce poverty. Provide early identification and effective intervention for victim/survivors of abuse, neglect, mental illness, and serious trauma. And keep guns out of the hands of those whose behavior signals serious instability or threat. Those steps will take care of the bulk of it.
Some fear that raising kids to be too nice, caring and empathetic will result in raising a generation of naïve and vulnerable individuals just waiting to be taken advantage of and victimized by those who think empathy is to be used solely for the purpose of manipulation, exploitation and domination. It’s a valid concern. But treating people with respect, understanding, and empathy is, in fact, compatible with possessing a healthy degree of vigilance, learning the warning signs of predators, abusers, and con people, and setting and enforcing healthy boundaries. We can teach are children to be trusting, respectful individuals while also teaching them to be appropriately assertive, refusing to tolerate abusive behavior, defending oneself and others when necessary, and pursuing healthy self-interest without exploiting others. We have to model and teach the whole package.
Some of our political leaders could benefit by taking to heart this approach. The benefits might trickle down to more of us in the form of healthier role modeling, community, and governmental functioning. It’s good to remember the fundamentals: listening and understanding.
Steve Baron is Vice Chair of Programs for the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Santa Clara County and is the former Director of Family Court Services.