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Formulating Interpersonal Relationships with Children by Barsha Bharati

By Volunteer Barsha Bharati, FHI Bhubaneswar

Interpersonal relationships formulate over time. Researchers have recommended a life-cycle comprising four stages for these development periods.

  1. Acquaintance stage.

The relationship normally initiates in this stage. This is where first impressions are made. First impressions last long. So these impressions can lead to either continued interactions or a perpetual acquaintance stage.

  1. Build-up stage.

Here trust is built among two people. Sometimes compatibility is also assessed here.

  1. Continuation stage

This stage is for mutual commitment.

Here the relationship can stay indefinitely or go on to the next stage.

  1. Deterioration stage

This is the worst part of the interpersonal relationship. Less communication, resentment, boredom, and dissatisfaction occurs in this stage. Loss of trust and sometimes betrayal leads to termination.

These studies are significant for everyone. But children are special. Because they are always in an absorbing state. They have pure forms of emotion. So every stage leaves a lifelong impact on them. Here I am giving one of my personal anecdotes.

My parents are very friendly and cooperative, I discuss everything about myself with them. So you can guess that my childhood was protected. I always had solutions to every problem I faced. I did not confront any kind of issue from my family in my childhood. My parents helped me with my studies. They introduced me to nice teachers as my mentors. I was performing well in school too. I was so protected, that I faced difficulties with social interactions. I had problems making and keeping close friends. I faced bullying in school when I couldn’t perform well. If I experience the same bullying now it will not affect me, but, when I was a kid it made me try and expect too much from myself. It developed insecurities inside me as well as a certain fear of being judged. I was either too domineering or too passive in problem-solving. I found it difficult to understand humour or use humour in conversation. So in school, I developed a severe acquaintance stage to make new friends. During the build-up stage, I trust a little. Compatibility among friends converted to competition. I believed that no one would continue it with me. They were just with me because they wanted something from me. When the wants would be over they might leave me.

These are the harmful effects of poor interpersonal relationships. It simply implies that if a protected childhood develops such kinds of insecurities then an unprotected or underprivileged childhood may develop more severe problems. That’s why interpersonal relationships are important and need to be righteous and effective. Poor interpersonal relationships may make children the victims of bullying or excessive teasing. They may become the culprit of bullying of other children. They may not behave appropriately in group situations. They may misunderstand conversations frequently. It will encourage them to make irrelevant or inappropriate comments. They interrupt conversations frequently and inappropriately. They may be insecure like me when I was in childhood. They may face difficulties not only in social interactions but also in problem-solving.

Here is how I have improved my interpersonal relationships. It can be applied to any child who faces the above problems. I didn’t do it all myself. As I discussed everything with my parents, they understood the problems and tried to make me self-reliant. They encouraged me to be empathised by watching and translating the body language of others. Like if my friend, Amrita faced any problem in school, I should try to stand with her and support her. I should not blame her without understanding her state. They taught me that yelling at my friends was unacceptable if they did anything wrong with me. I should control my anger and review the situation and try to understand my friend’s point of view. Might be, he or she didn’t intend to do it but it was a mere mistake. They taught me how to address problems without aggression. Although I was not that aggressive, they never stood for physical or verbal aggression and tried to stop me immediately. Slowly they stopped solving problems for me as I am growing older; instead, they asked me questions that encourage me to analyse the situation and available options. These three pieces of advice helped me to make close friends and also develop interpersonal bonding.

Nowadays, I am exploring possible solutions, examining the advantages and disadvantages of each possible solution together. The children should be reminded that they have choices. They should explore different ways before arriving at the conclusion. Sometimes a simple “sorry” may be all that is required.

My parents taught me how to work hard to try new things. They encouraged and demonstrated the power of language as a problem-solving tool. They have explained to me that I can feel any way I wish, but I must control what I do. It helps me to cope with feelings and emotions constructively. I express as well as encourage my surroundings to talk about strong emotions and how they feel. Knowing the peculiarity of language will definitely help children to open up or be vocal about their opinions.

My parents, friends and mentors’ continuous support makes me believe that no one leaves me actually, it is just a priority call. It has no relationship with my personal limits. It helped me to set standards and enforce limits. I have started sharing my beliefs and goals. I start doing things which are right from my understanding. I also repent if anything goes wrong but not like before. Now I am noting down why it happens, how it can be avoided and these learnings help me to be a better version of myself.

Actually, a child’s social network is complex. It includes relationships with mother, father, siblings, peers, and other adults. The quality of these relationships can have implications for the child’s wellbeing. A youth who does not have supportive interpersonal relationships or struggle to develop these relationships are at risk for poor social, behavioural, academic, and physical and mental health outcomes. Children’s well-being is simple from the perspective of Dorothy Nolte.

“Children do learn what they live. Then they grow up to live what they’ve learned.”

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