The Government has pledged to take action to stem the surge in knife crime that has claimed the lives of more than 20 teenagers in London alone this year, including forcing youngsters caught carrying knives to visit stabbing victims in hospital.
However stringent the measures introduced, I doubt they will have much, if any, effect, because they will be doing little more than putting a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. And that gaping wound is the collapse of traditional family life.
It is no coincidence that the majority of teenagers who get caught up in knife wielding gangs are, it appears, from broken homes – in particular families where the father doesn’t play a major role.
Unless managed well – which is entirely possible – the breakdown of marriages and long term relationships can have a catastrophic effect on children.
I would never urge a client to remain in a deeply unhappy or violent marriage, but I do think far too many marriages disintegrate because people aren’t willing to settle for a less-than-ideal existence. Personal expectation is so high these days that at the first sign of trouble, some couples head for the divorce courts rather than trying to work out their problems or, simply, live with them.
Although I believe children can suffer more if a warring couple stay together rather than if they split up, I also believe that lots of relationships could be managed sufficiently to allow children to be brought up by both parents in the same house, which – statistics and research imply – is better for children’s wellbeing.
Although a truly happy partnership is the ideal, it is possible to live reasonably contentedly in a far-from-perfect relationship. And if your children are going to benefit from this arrangement, surely that’s as good a reason as any to stick with it.
Here are some suggestions on how to stay married to Mr or Ms Not-Quite-Right:
• If you can accept your marriage isn’t the fairytale you imagined it would be, it is far easier to put up with the problem areas, such as your husband spending most evenings at the pub or your wife’s failings in the kitchen. Resigning yourself to the idea that “this is as good as it gets” might help to curb your yearnings for something better
• Pour your love and your energy into the kids rather than trying to restore the magic you and your spouse once shared. Romantic love can be fleeting; parental love is forever
• It is possible to live together, yet alone. If you really don’t enjoy each other’s company any more, attempt to live under the same roof while leading largely separate lives, coming together only for family activities
• If you have dependent children, try to resolve your difficulties in the short term with a view to going your separate ways when the children have flown the nest
• Depending on the size of your garden, erect a shed or summer house that can be used by one partner as a bolt-hole when things get fraught
• If your marital problems are caused by the fact you get under each other’s feet and therefore on each other’s nerves, encourage your spouse to take up a hobby or interest that gets them out of the house – and you do the same (but on different days/evenings!)
• Instead of focusing on all the things that are wrong with your relationship, make an effort to identify shared points of interest – be it gardening, watching old movies or DIY – and make more of them
• If you really can’t stomach being in the same house, suggest you stay married but that one of you rents or buys a house or apartment nearby, so the kids can come and go between the two properties on an almost daily basis, thus minimising the physical and emotional disruption often caused by separation