Healthy relationships lead to better lives



Teddi Dineley Johnson

Unless you’re shipwrecked on a deserted island, you probably enjoy a handful of close relationships. From spouses to children to friends, parents, siblings and significant others, healthy relationships build self-esteem, improve mental and emotional health and help you live a fuller life.

“Relationships are — not surprisingly — enormously important for health, and there are lots of studies on the biological processes that account for the link between relationships and health,” says psychology professor Arthur Aron, PhD, director of the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at New York’s Stony Brook University.

The quality of our personal relationships also has an enormous impact on our physical health, as evidenced by a hefty number of research studies.

“We support each other in getting enough exercise, eating right, flossing — all the things that make for better health can be supported or undermined by close relationships,” Aron says.

In the movie “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks’ character — stranded on an uninhabited island — creates a face on a volleyball and talks to the ball, which he names “Wilson,” as if it were a person. Though fictional and funny, the gesture illustrates something very basic about us: Relationships are important — so important, in fact, that our brains are hardwired to form them.

“Evolution has set us up to be very good in relationships and to make them happen,” says Aron, who also teaches an undergraduate course on close relationships. “We have evolved to form relationships and to keep them together to raise children.”

That said, have you ever wondered why some of your relationships are more effective than others? Researchers have learned a lot in the last 30 years about what makes good relationships tick, and it boils down to just a few things. Unfortunately, most folks are only minimally aware of those elements, Aron says, and therefore aren’t doing everything they could be doing to improve their relationships.


Mind your mental health

Without question, the mental health of all parties is the most important element of a good relationship. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, insecurity or low self-esteem, seek help from a health professional right away, because it’s not just you, but also your relationship, that will suffer.

You can’t always control the stressors in your life, but for your relationships to be effective, try to keep stress to a minimum.

Also, be understanding when others are going through a tough time. Someone who loses her or his job, for example, might behave negatively for a little while. But things should get better eventually.

Keep the lines open

“We just don’t communicate!” is a common refrain in relationships — too common in fact, because after mental health, effective communication is the second most important ingredient in a healthy relationship.

Communication is important because conflicts are inevitable in relationships, and “most people are poorly prepared to deal with them well,” Aron says.

But there’s plenty of help out there. If you’re planning to wed, take advantage of the preparation courses offered through places of worship or community programs.

If you are already in a relationship, think about registering for a weekend seminar or marital enrichment course, often offered through churches, synagogues and community recreation departments.

And if you think the communication between you and your partner needs some extra help, consider couples counseling or marital therapy.


Build a bridge of support

Support from family and friends is an ingredient that repeatedly surfaces in good relationships. You might need someone to take the kids for the night, or help with carpooling. If you have a support system in place, or live near friends and family, don’t be afraid to ask them for a helping hand, a sympathetic ear or advice.

 “All relationships require effort and attention,” Aron says. “Sometimes that effort and attention is automatic, such as with an infant. Beyond what is automatic, for most relationships, we usually need to put attention and effort into them, and it pays off.”


Love Quiz: Do You Really Know Your Partner?

Worldwide leaders in research and couples therapy, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have found that one of the most important characteristics of successful relationships is the quality of the friendship between partners.

Do you really know your partner? Take our quiz below to find out.








Anti Bullying poster Educators

The way schools react is important

The most effective thing that a school can do to reduce bullying is to have a policy outlining how the issue is raised within the curriculum, and how incidents are dealt with after they have happened i.e. the policy must acknowledge the need for both pro-active and re-active strategies. But no school has the answer to every problem, and no single method can be used to deal with all bullying incidents.

The way in which adults react to bullying contributes to the ethos of the school and can help to make it more or less likely that bullying will happen in future. Ignoring the problem encourages it to flourish. A heavy-handed approach can drive it underground. However, a positive, open response will encourage young people to speak up about matters that concern them and will improve the learning environment by promoting more caring and responsible patterns of behaviour.

How should schools react?

This will depend upon:

  • The circumstances – always assess the true nature of an incident before applying any strategy. Group bullying or “mobbing” needs to be handled differently from problems created by an individual who persistently bullies others. Such a person’s bullying may be merely one manifestation of a plethora of problems.

The existing practices and resources of the school – for example, there is no

point trying to encourage a counselling approach if potential counsellors are not given the training, time and support needed to fulfil the task.

Which strategies are best?

Schools are getting better at dealing with bullying but it will be some time before a quick resolution of all incidents can be guaranteed. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple word or two from a teacher to make children realise that what they are doing is wrong. At the other extreme some bullying remains intractable. The development of new ideas continues and all it is possible to do at the moment is to list some of the strategies for which success has been claimed and to provide a few words of commentary on each.

  • Punishments such as suspension or expulsion can mark the seriousness with which an episode of bullying is viewed and can also help to provide a safer environment for victims. It also has to be recognised that some types of bullying are crimes. Schools are subject to the law of the land so the possibility of punishment in response to very serious incidents cannot be denied. However, the great majority of bullying goes unpunished so some new ways of helping the thousands of hidden victims of bullying are needed.
  • Assertive discipline – a method developed the United States which involves a rigid system of rewards and sanctions consistently applied by all teachers in a school. It is claimed that this method helps to motivate learning and to reduce the level of classroom indiscipline, but its effectiveness in coping with bullying is not clear.
  • Bully boxes – a simple method whereby youngsters can put their concerns on paper and post them in a “bully box”. What happens to these notes is the key to the success or failure of this technique. Can genuine comments be distinguished from frivolous or malicious ones?
  • Bully courts – the idea that young people should play a part in making school rules and in deciding what should happen to those who break them is not new. Some progressive schools introduced councils to do this over fifty years ago. More recently a few schools have tried to establish courts or councils solely to deal with cases of bullying. However, the principle that young people should sit in judgement on their peers, and punish wrongdoers remains controversial. What is clear is that adults must play an active and guiding role in such proceedings in order to protect the welfare of all the young people involved.
  • Counselling – a teacher or another adult may have the skills and time to offer support to young people involved in bullying. Both bullies and victims can benefit from this process. The main problems are that it is time consuming, the youngsters must take part voluntarily and there is a lack of trained counsellors in schools.
  • Mediation – some schools have introduced schemes where two parties to a relationship problem agree that a third person, who may be either an adult or another young person, helps to negotiate a solution. This seems to be helpful in many situations, especially where there is not too large an imbalance of power between the protagonists – but not in all cases of bullying. A bully may refuse to take part because he or she has no interest in ending the bullying. A victim may feel that a negotiated solution is not appropriate when it is the other person who is entirely in the wrong.
  • Peer counselling – a small number of secondary schools have used older teenagers as peer counsellors. Good training and continuing support is vital if these young volunteers are to be able to help victims who may be quite seriously distressed.
  • The ‘no blame’ approach – a step by step technique which allows early intervention because it does not require that anyone should be proved to be at fault. A group of young people, which includes bystanders as well as possible bullies, is made aware of a victim’s distress and is asked to suggest solutions. This approach is particularly useful in dealing with group bullying and name-calling, when it may be difficult to use more traditional remedies.
  • The ‘shared concern’ method – a Swedish technique which has much in common with the “No blame” approach, although it has not been widely used in Britain, perhaps because it is more elaborate and time consuming. Both of these methods have been criticised for failing to allocate blame but both aim to encourage bullies to accept responsibility for their actions as well as bringing the bullying to an end.
  • “Solution focused approaches” share much of the philosophy of the previous two strategies but can be applied to problems other than bullying. This is helpful because the task of finding out the facts of an incident and then of making a judgement about whether it should be called bullying or not is sometimes impossible. Relationship problems amongst a group of children can be very complicated indeed. They can also be very damaging to the personal development and education of some of the individuals involved. Being able to intervene without wasting too much time trying to untangle emotional knots has obvious attractions for busy teachers.
  • Reporting systems – it is most important that schools should have efficient ways of recording reports of serious bullying so that a check can be kept of patterns of behaviour. This can also help to ensure that incidents are not overlooked.
  • “Safe rooms” have been set up in some schools at break and lunch times as a refuge for bullied children. Although this may provide safety in the short term, it could have the effect of making the rest of the school seem even more hostile to the children who use it.
  • Telephone help lines – services such as ChildLine provide valuable support to children who are afraid to speak out about bullying. However, the fact that they exist is a signal that some schools are failing to provide conditions in which children are able to discuss their problems openly. One or two schools have set up their own internal help lines in an attempt to increase the opportunities for worried children to seek help.


It’s all about RESPECT!

PROCARE has recently presented the BEEMY Life Skills Programme at Rietondale Primary in Pretoria.

There is a growing concern about how our children are exposed to negative stimuli in their daily living environments.  These external stimuli impacts on them, through our bodies, eyes, ears, and mouths – senses.  The BEEMY programme demonstrates five basic principles to the children and empowers them with skills of how to make a difference through the choices they make. It is a lovely empowering workshop which the children really enjoy and the lessons learnt are also very powerful for their future development and actions.

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Our school social worker Marguerite Linde presenting the talk

If you are interested in knowing more about the content of this programme, please contact PROCARE on 0861 776 2273 or email us on for more information on the BEEMY programme.


PROCARE has long been known for the work they have done in educating school children about how to protect themselves. part 3 start

The Martin Mouse child protection programme was developed by PROCARE and is a puppet show geared at pre-school and junior primary children.

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At the start of the Programme, PROCARE had actors dress up in mouse costumes to take the message to the children.  The colouring books developed over the years and is a much loved part of the show.

Although PROCARE does not engage in theatre anymore, we still love interactive puppet shows with the children at schools and pre-schools.  Additional programmes have been developed for the older children such as Beemy and Anti-bulling.

Contact us to learn more about our amazing Schools Support Programmes.

Peer Counselling Course

An annual invitation to Pretoria High School for Girls affords PROCARE the opportunity to train a group of girls who have been carefully selected to act as Peer Counsellors in their school.  After their completion of  four training sessions, they are introduced to the school as the newly elected peer counsellors for the following year.  This group of girls is empowered with basic counselling skills, in order to be a support to their peers.  The peer counselling course covers a wide range of topics such as, depression, cutting, relationships, substance abuse, emotional debriefing etc., and how to recognize when fellow learners need to be referred for further, professional help.

A big thank you to this year’s group of girls who committed themselves to completing this course!  Keep up the good work and continue this wonderful tradition!

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Should you be interested in the content that we cover, please contact PROCARE on 0861 776 2273 or email us on if you are interested in having us present the programme at your school.

Stress And Time Management for Learners

It is that time of the year where learners are quite stressed about getting organised and prepared for the final year-end examinations that lie ahead.

Curro Thatchfield invited PROCARE trainer and social worker, Elize Maartens to present a short course on Stress and Time management to 13 prefects at the school.

A big thank you to all the prefects at Curro Thatchfield for a stimulating and interactive course.  It was a priviledge to meet such an intelligent group of young people!

Good luck!!


Bullying in South African – enough is enough


Bullying in South African enough is enough


Bullying in South African schools by pupils has reached ‘epidemic proportions’ and it’s everyone’s problem.

With his hands clasped tightly together and a look of disbelief in his eyes, an 18-year-old boy stands up to address the judge at the Boksburg Magistrates Court. Slight of build and wearing a faded blue T-shirt, the teen is accused of committing murder.

A learner at Phineas Xulu Secondary School in Maseko Street, Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, the boy shot and killed a grade 10 pupil, Nkululeko Ndlovu, in what many say was triggered by weeks of bullying. It’s alleged that Ndlovu and another group of pupils had pelted the teenager with stones the day before and robbed him of his cellphone and clothes, leaving him with only his pants. For the boy, it was the last straw. He took his mother’s service firearm (a Vosloorus police officer) to school the following day and, just before the class wrote their year-end exam, he ended Ndlovu’s life.
One would expect outrage among fellow pupils over the shooting, but Ndlovu’s peers say they were not sad about his death as they too had been victims of his bullying. One boy claimed he was too scared to even go to the toilet because he had been attacked by Ndlovu, who allegedly grabbed him by the genitals and stole his money. Ndlovu’s family, however, denied he was a problem pupil and said they were not aware he was a bully.

While the incident has sent shockwaves through the Ekurhuleni community, reports and claims of bullying in schools is rampant. Earlier this year, St David’s Marist Inanda school in Sandton, Gauteng, took disciplinary action against senior pupils involved in forcing grade 8 students to mock rape bus chairs. A few weeks later, the Gauteng Education Department expelled five pupils for bullying at Lethabong High School in Soshanguve, Pretoria. The decision was taken after a learner, grade 10 pupil David Hlongwane, was so distraught after being bullied at school that he hung himself. Another learner was also suspended at the same time for assaulting a girl at school using an iron rod. Earlier this month, a teenager appeared in the Wentworth Magistrate’s Court in Durban after he allegedly stabbed a fellow pupil, aged 15, to death at the Fairvale Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal.

“If you are different in any way, you run the risk of being picked on and rejected,” says Cassey Chambers, Operations Director of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag). “Bullying is on the increase yet, shockingly, parents, teachers and adults generally still don’t see anything wrong with it and underestimate the extent and effect of bullying.”

Bullying is the most common form of violence. Between 15 and 30 percent of teens have been involved with bullying yet more than two-thirds of teens believe schools respond poorly and that adult help is infrequent and ineffective. Are these views surprising when we consider 25 percent of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying?

Johannesburg-based psychologist Sandra Brownrigg says bullying has severe, long-term effects on a child’s mental and physical health. She says: “Victims of bullying are more likely to suffer physical problems such as common colds and coughs, sore throats, poor appetite, and night waking. Being bullied affects your concentration at school and results in a drop in school performance. Bullying affects the victim’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Teens may start to withdraw socially and become depressed. Some may take weapons to school for protection or consider suicide as the only escape. Research has shown that even years after being bullied, past victims have higher levels of depression and poorer self-esteem that other adults.”

Provincial education MEC Barbara Creecy says while bullying is a serious problem for schools (speaking specifically on schools in Gauteng) the true extent of bullying is not known and will not be known because in most instances learners or their parents do not report the incidents because they fear further victimisation. “The provincial education department is rolling out its own plans to combat bullying, including at ‘high-risk’ schools, and policy documents for all schools. Schools are encouraged to review the policy for its effectiveness. In this way, we hope the policy will be respected and enforced as the department has adopted a collaborative approach,” she says.

The Other Side Of The Fence
It can be devastating to learn your child is the class bully. According to author Barbara Coloroso, who wrote the book The Bully, The Bullied And The Bystander (available from, bullying is not about anger or conflict, it’s about contempt and contempt is learned. Since contempt is learned, it can be un-learned. Parents and educators should plan a rehabilitative programme for bullies so that they are able to learn to understand themselves and their feelings, understand the consequences of their actions, find other rewarding outlets for their power-seeking drives, and practice self-discipline and empathy for others. If your child is a bully, talk openly to them about their behaviour. Tell them their behaviour is unacceptable and harmful to both the victim and themselves. Try and help them understand the impact they are having on the child they are bullying, as well as on themselves. Notice and praise pro-social behaviour when it does occur and avoid consequences that humiliate and belittle. Seek professional help should your child continue bullying.

What To Do If You Are Being Bullied
Indicate to a bully that the behaviour is unacceptable. In addition, be prepared to work with bullies to help them find alternative ways of behaving.
Tell someone.
Ask the bully to stop. Someone might not know that their behaviour is hurting you.
Avoid being alone with the bully. Try to make friends and hang out as a group.

What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
Be open to the possibility that your child may be being bullied.
If you suspect something may be wrong, ask.
Listen to your child and take them seriously.
Never blame the child.
Don’t keep it a secret.
Discuss practical ways to solve the problem.
Teach self-confidence, assertiveness and social skills.
Enrol kids in extra mural activities to help them widen their social circle.
Never expect kids to work it out on their own.
Talk to teachers and other parents – if there’s one bullied kid, there will be others.

Celebrities Who Were Bullied As Kids

It’s hard to imagine these celebrities were bullied as kids. Rapper Eminem was reportedly beaten so severely by a bully at school at the age of nine that he suffered a cerebral concussion, post-traumatic headaches, intermittent loss of vision and hearing, and other injuries to his head, face, back, and neck. In 1999 Eminem wrote a song about his attacker, DeAngelo Bailey, titled Brain Damage.
Vanessa Hudgens was constantly teased and bullied for her frizzy hair. A girl in her school would grab her hair and pull her to the ground.
Taylor Swift was dumped by a group of popular girls at school who she hung out with for ‘not being cool or pretty enough’.
Twilight star Robert Pattinson would get beat up for his ‘actor-like’ attitude.
“I got beaten up by a lot of people when I was younger,” he says.” I was a bit of an idiot, but I always thought the assaults were unprovoked.”
As a child, Mila Kunis would come home crying from school, because the other kids would make fun of her for having such big features.
Miley Cyrus was verbally bullied by her school peers, who even formed ‘The Anti-Miley Club’. One day she was locked in a bathroom by her bullies who challenged her to a fight, which had to be halted by the school principal.

Help Centres

PROCARE on 0861 776 2273 or email
SADAG has a toll-free suicide crisis line open seven days a week from 08h00 to 20h00 on 0800 567 567. Teens can also sms 31393 for help.
Police and Trauma Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 205 026
Bipolar Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 708 090
Sleep Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 753 379
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line: (24-hr helpline): 0800 121 314, sms 32312
SADAG Mental Health Line (08h00-20h00): (011) 262-6396
Dr Reddy’s Help Line (08h00-20h00):
0800 212 223
Psychiatric Response Unit (Gauteng Emergencies 24-hour): (010) 040-4357
SADAG has a toll-free suicide crisis line open seven days a week from 08h00 to 20h00 on 0800 567 567. Teens can also sms 31393 for help.
Police and Trauma Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 205 026
Bipolar Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 708 090
Sleep Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 753 379
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line: (24-hr helpline): 0800 121 314, sms 32312
SADAG Mental Health Line (08h00-20h00): (011) 262-6396
Dr Reddy’s Help Line (08h00-20h00):
0800 212 223
Psychiatric Response Unit (Gauteng Emergencies 24-hour): (010) 040-4357

Bullying, a growing concern

11168389_790280867736244_4362209432968081801_nIf you are a learner, Educator, or parent, empower yourself with knowledge about Bullying.  Bullying is a growing concern not only in High schools, but also in Pre-Primary and Primary schools.

The following link to a touching article written by a girl who experienced bullying first hand is a Must-Read.  She shares her experiences, how she understands it and how she rose above it.

If you need help, or have witnessed how bullying has become a problem in your school, PROCARE has a tailor-made life skills programme that can address this concern and empower.  Please take a look at our outline of the programme and contact us for further information at 0860 776 2273 or email us at

Anti-bullying Course OUTLINE 2015


This weekend PROCARE Social Workers, Kgaabi Boshomane and Ayesha Malagas, presented the Martin Mouse Child Protection Programme at the Buskaid Music school in Soweto.


The children, aged between 7 and 11 really enjoyed the programme by getting involved in the discussions with the Martin Mouse hand-puppet.  They had small group discussions and tore out pictures, prepared points of interest to share with the group and coloured in their colouring books.


The programme covered aspects such as:WP_20150815_002

  • My body is mine – I can say no
  • Good and bad secrets
  • Dangerous situations
  • Safety rules

Should you want to find out more about the programme, contact us on 0861 776 2273 or email us on