The Respectful Relationships program is an initiative by the State government which is based around developing respect, positive attitudes and behaviors all of which develop resilience, confidence and healthy relationships now and for the future. It is designed for schools and early childhood settings, to implement the program and develop the building blocks throughout a student’s education. It is not to be confused with the Safe Schools program.
All educational settings that implement this program, will do so in their own unique way and may use a variety of tools and resources that are made available to them. They have been provided with the fundamental topics which are thought to be the basis to equip our young people with the tools, knowledge and skills they need now and for the future to have respectful and healthy relationships. These topics include Emotional Literacy, Personal Strengths, Positive Coping, Problem Solving, Stress Management, Help-Seeking, Gender & Identity and Positive Gender Relations. Having started to implement this program to my students in a primary setting, I have found it engaging, thought provoking and powerful. It has promoted a lot of discussion and given students the opportunity to recognise their strengths, characteristics and given them the skills to cope with anger, feeling unhappy and the ability to recognise when they need some time out. All aspects we as adults sometimes grapple with recognising.
The reason behind this program, although a fantastic initiative and one that is needed, is alarming. Domestic violence and violence in general seems to becoming almost the norm in society. You only need to listen to the news or read the paper and someone has been coward punched, beaten, women trying to escape violent relationships or worse, trapped in one. Add the games that our children are playing and movies that they are exposed to at such an early age with violence, begs the question are we actually desensitising our children to the point where they see that violence is the only option? If we become frustrated or angry, rather than drawing on our own personal and inner strengths to deal with it, lashing out seems to be the only way they know how.
Schools have to take on a lot these days and sometimes it feels like we are not only educating children but raising them too. Parents need to step up to the plate and actually raise their child not blame the education system when things go pear shaped. It does take a village to raise a child but a child will always look to their parent/s for guidance, comfort, love, support and most importantly, boundaries. A program such as this will work if parents are prepared to work together with schools and the community to reinforce the positives that this type of initiative will have now and for the future.
Not one person should ever have to go through the loss of a loved one due to domestic violence or worse, be in an abusive relationship and feel trapped. Not one person should lose anyone to a coward’s punch. Not one person should be bullied to the point where they feel the only escape is suicide.
Our children are our future and we need to nurture, support and equip them with resilience and confidence along with knowledge, skills and resources to develop and maintain healthy and respectful relationships, now and for the future.