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May The Model Be Set Right by Shritama Sarkar

By Volunteer Shritama Sarkar, FHI Bangalore

I was so tense standing outside the examination hall, flipping pages going through my list of formulae. Yes, it was Math and I was in standard 6 or 7. There were a few minutes left when a friend of mine comes up to me, telling me how difficult it was for her with her parents the day before and this morning, she woke up to screams and screeches. I couldn’t listen to her with all my attention because there was that last-minute revision still left without which I get so anxious. So, I apologised to her and asked if I could listen to her after the exam since it was going to start in sometime and I had a small portion yet to revise. What came next was so unanticipated. She yelled at me, her legs shivering, tears rolling down her face. I was feeling so helpless. She said to me “You too are like them, foolish of me to think someone would have a minute for me”. At this, I was completely taken aback. I could not summon up what just happened.

This girl happened to reside near my house. That evening, I went up to meet her on my mother’s advice. I could hear some noises of weeping and yelling before her father opened the door and told me she’s sleeping and shut the door abruptly. This time, I wasn’t really stunned because my mind started somewhat connecting the dots.

She was the same girl who used to swing alone while all the kids played around, who used to get lost in between lectures, who often had unexplained bruises on her cheek and arms and the one who was abandoned by many. At that time, all I could do was ask her to come and play with us, that I did.

Gradually we lost touch and now when I think back, it feels like we all knew something was not right yet we all stepped back to help.

As they say we humans are social beings, we share mirror neurons that allow us to match each other’s emotions unconsciously and immediately.

This remained unsettling for a very long time but was also a point of realisation of how these relationships that we share with our family, with our peers, with our teachers, with our partners and with the society as a whole are so intertwined with each other, which makes it so valuable for development from a very early age.

We cannot deny with the fact that a child gets the first glimpse of social behaviour of handling conflicts and conversing with others from parents, but the society as well plays a role.

Children’s first experience with interpersonal bonding is with their parents. They develop a sense of affirmation on the basis of that relationship, whether their parents would be meeting their physical and emotional needs. Not just that, even how parents interact with each other and with others affects children’s interaction with the society. This memory of their childhood interpersonal experience acts as a model for them which remains with them mostly for the entire life.

If this model is set wrong due to any reason, they often have no reliable way of knowing who to trust or how to form attachments which makes it difficult for these innocent children to not only maintain emotional closeness with their parents but with other individuals, such as relatives, peers, partners and other trusted adults as well. In addition to struggling with trust issues, they may never believe in the essence of a meaningful relationship since there has never been a model for a healthy meaningful relationship. This world would feel so cruel and unsafe to them.

Now that’s when society as well has a role to play. Children with disturbed relationships at home normalise this and see it coming at every point in their lives. This is often projected through anxiety, aggression and withdrawn behaviour. Often, such children are looked down upon.

This needs to change. The society needs to try hard to make them believe that this world is capable of making them feel safe and has care and love for them. Their model wouldn’t necessarily remain the base for all the possible healthy relationships they could have in future.

Can we not redirect these beliefs by accepting and showing sincere interest in children and consistently providing them with emotional support?

Can we not provide them the care and support that they’ve felt missing somewhere?

We always can and we always shall. They all look up to the society with hope to provide them what went missing. These healthier interactions shall become their model for the future, for conflict resolution and emotional control.

The way a child involves in interpersonal relationships tucks into his mind the concept of how he fits in with the society and that shapes his plans for the future and further overall psychosocial development. At the end, acceptance and support is all that children look for in relationships.

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