Our relationships with others help us navigate the world. We learn how to express ourselves and interact with others. We learn social habits and the rules of being a social being in society. Positive social habits help build our support systems and maintain mental and physical health. In this time of transitioning and adapting to a new social normal, supporting and maintaining social wellness is critical in our efforts to thrive in life. The following suggested strategies to utilize in achieving social wellness include building the capacity to:
Social connections might help protect health and lengthen life. Scientists are finding that our links to others can have powerful effects on our health. Whether with family, friends, neighbors, romantic partners or others, social connections can influence our biology and well-being. Look for ways to get involved with others. Teaching children prosocial skills involves much more than teaching a list of logical dos and don’ts having to do with behaviors. It involves training the brain’s emotional processes long before the logical processes are even engaged, which means the first job of parents is to connect emotionally to our children.
Take Care of Yourself While Caring For Others
Many of us will end up being a carer at some point in our lives. The strain and stress of caregiving can take a serious toll on us. It is vital to find ways to take care of our health while caring for others. Depending on our circumstances, some self-care strategies may make it more difficult to carry out than others. We should find ways that will work for us, in lieu of circumstances, especially in the midst of COVID-19 during social distancing.
Get Active Together
Where you work, live, go to school can have a huge impact on huch much we move and even how much we weigh. Being active with others in our family or community can have a positive effect on our health habits and create opportunities to connect. We can help the community create ways to encourage more physical activity. This is also possible for family members, while we are at home. Running in place, doing stretching exercises, walking up and down stairs or a game of Twister. Above all, it is important to remember that children need physical activity during the day. It is a part of healthy growth and learning, too. Take a Sunday walk instead of a drive. Take the dog on longer walks. Park farther from the store and walk. Get the picture?
Shape Your Family’s Health Habits
Many things can influence a child, including friends, teachers and the things they see when they sit in front of the TV or computer screen. As parents, our everyday behaviors play a big part in shaping our children’s behavior. With our help, children can learn to develop healthy eating and physical activity habits that last throughout their lives. Be a good health role model. Right now, limiting screen time isn’t as important as monitoring what’s being viewed on screen. Keep it positive and that doesn’t mean that children can’t play games, either. Create and maintain scheduled times for games and social media involvement. Balance is the key!
Bond With Your Children
Parents have an important job. Raising children is both rewarding and challenging. We must be sensitive, responsive, consistent and available to our children. This can help build positive, healthy relationships with them. The strong emotional bonds that result help children learn how to manage their own feelings and behaviors and develop self-confidence. With strong connections to their caregivers, children are more likely to be able to cope with challenges in life. Ask children which activities they like to do and do it as a family. Children can help around the house and have bonding experiences doing things together. Modeling and bonding!
Build Healthy Relationships
Strong healthy relationships are important throughout life. They can impact our mental health and well-being. As a child, we learn the social skills to form and maintain relationships with others. However, at any age we can learn new ways to improve our relationship building skills. It’s important to know what a healthy relationship looks like and how to keep connections with others supportive. Adults can best show children how to be supportive, how to be someone’s friend and how to demonstrate empathy and compassion for others. Respecting others is number one! Showing respect for our children’s feelings is the best way for them to learn to respect the feelings of others. It all begins with listening with an open-mind to hear and ask honest questions before assumptions are made.
Social wellness is achievable. It requires us to work at it every day. If we are struggling with circumstances, challenges,and adapting to changes in our lives, it is absolutely okay to communicate to our children that we are not perfect and show them that we are doing our very best. It’s okay to ask for help and important that there is someone to lean on and support our efforts. Children need to see this.
Social entrepreneur Mary Gordon emphasizes emotional literacy as being “the language of the heart”. Emotional literacy is at the root of empathy and as parents, we teach children to correctly identify and put words to our emotions. Putting words to our own feelings and labeling them helps them understand feelings of others and to express concern for others. Expanding and supporting social wellness also means helping our children learn the difference between intentional and accidental behavior, cause and effect and group dynamics as they play with others.
We correct inappropriate behaviors, but we never forget the power of positive reinforcement.Sometimes just a look of approval or disapproval is enough. Children want to please us and when we acknowledge their successes in reaching our standards, their sense of accomplishment is fed. We strengthen their belief in their ability to solve problems creatively. It is important that children feel that they have chosen to perform positive behaviors in order that praise and approval are effective.
When we are attuned to our children, adept at reading their emotional state, as well as our own, they can optimize their capacity for empathy and resilience and can weather the storms of uncertainty. Help set the stage for social wellness, beginning with our own!