Friendships and fallouts

Friendships and fallouts

Inter peer relationships affect every age group, but at schools when many young people are gradually finding their identity and self-esteem perhaps their importance is increased. Bullying and arguments are nothing new in schools, but that doesn’t mean we should stop helping young people deal with the difficulties they prompt. For this weeks blog, Sarah takes a look at the impact Triple R has had in enabling young people the roles they play in social fallouts.

Relationships, be they romantic or otherwise, are incredibly important to any human being, and following the last Triple R visit of 2012 this was reiterated by one year 7 students incredibly moving response to watching Repeat After Me.

The girl in question was someone I had worked with last summer as part of the Transition Project. I noticed her in tears as she left the hall today after our performance and approached her to check that she was ok. Upon asking her if she was ok or needed to chat she said ‘I’m ok, it just made me realise how lucky I am now and made me really grateful for the friends I have.’

I don’t know enough about her past experiences to know exactly what part of the play affected her so strongly, but it did make me think back to my own school experiences and indeed the events within Repeat After Me and recall just how devastating broken relationships can be.

Unfortunately, fallouts and bitterness between two people rarely stay confined in a school environment. The pressure to take sides, and often to maintain or save your own social status can leave fractured friendship groups and broken trust between peers.

For young people to achieve their academic potential they need to be socially comfortable, something that is incredibly difficult if you are worrying about the four girls who have suddenly stopped talking to you because of something you or someone else has done. I remember about 4 months into secondary school where I came in on Monday morning to find my best friend Jenny refusing to speak to me because of something I had allegedly said over the weekend. For the entire week our lessons were disrupted by people taking sides, trying to figure out what had happened and why Jenny and I were refusing to speak to each other. I remember my Mum telling me at the time that it would ‘all blow over’ and I should ‘just ignore it and focus on other things.’ But the truth was I was not prepared to even attempt to focus on learning the periodic table when something so utterly horrific had happened in my social life. Over dramatic? Perhaps I’d think so now, but at 12 it was seemingly impossible to see it any other way.

That is why the role of the bystander plays such an important part in the Repeat After Me workshop. It’s so easy to pass on a rumour, or laugh along at someone’s expense, but what we often forget is that our behaviour, even if it’s not directly unpleasant can have a negative effect on already damaged relationships and self-esteem. In order to stop bullying in schools we need to target not only those who are bullying, but also those who stand back and do nothing when they see it going on.

Another crucial part of the workshop is the exploration as to whether bullies can change their ways. The reason for this is twofold; firstly it increases the chances of mending broken relationships. How much easier is it to accept an apology from someone if you can understand why they may have behaved in the way they did? By encouraging empathy towards those who act upon bullying behaviour as a result of a troubled home life or cripplingly low self-esteem we offer a way out, a chance for things to be different. Secondly, we need to put the message out there especially for those young people who do bully others. If we label them as bullies how can we expect a change. The truth is that we all have the option to change our behaviour. It may not be easy, and it may seem daunting or difficult at first, but the choice is ultimately ours.

Ultimately, unless we show young people that there can be a different way, we risk ignoring a potentially critical obstacle in their emotional and social development.

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Sarah Fullagar

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