This is the third part of a six part series on five factors that make families absolutely amazing. We all want to have families that are strong, healthy, and happy. And, as we mentioned in the first post, a great thing about these factors is that they apply to all families. No matter how strong or struggling, when these factors are woven into the life of a family, the family continues to become healthier, happier, and stronger. These factors have been named the Strengthening Families Protective Factors (SFPF).
In the first post we outlined the five protective factors:
- Parental Resilience
- Social Connections
- Concrete Support in Times of Need
- Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
- Social and Emotional Competence of Children
If you missed the first post, it can be found by clicking here.
The second post that focuses on Parental Resilience can be found by clicking here.
In this post we look a little more closely at Social Connections. We will explore what it is and why it is important, as well as a couple ways to begin building this into our lives.
Social connections means not being alone. It is connection with others, whether that is friends, family, coworkers, or any other way in which we interact with other people. For parents, social connections can take many forms such as family or friends who keep children when the parents need a break, families who get together to enjoy shared activities, or friends who confide in each other or just spend time together.
There are massive correlations between isolation and negative physical as well as mental health outcomes such as depression, abuse, and suicide. Ask any mental health professional and they will express the importance of social connections and how at our core we are social beings. Yes, we may have varying needs regarding times of solitude and times of connection with others, but all of us need connection. We all need times where we are not alone and feel connected to other people. Numerous studies show how critical social connections are, especially to children as they develop. Further, as parents it is easier to care for ourselves as well as our children when we have a strong support network. Often, it is the network of support that makes the difference between a family being able to bounce back from hardship or staying stuck in difficult situations. It is one of the aims of all our programs at the Circle of Care, to not only offer education and resources, but support through connection with our staff as well as other social connections.
As we connect with other parents, we become better parents ourselves. We learn from each other, offer support, and find that others have similar issues to the ones with which we struggle. Together we find solutions and all benefit.
In order to build social connections, we have to actually put forth an effort to connect with other people. This may mean going throughout the neighborhood and meeting our neighbors, joining a civic club or group such as PTA/PTO, Athletic, or Band Boosters. It may mean taking up a hobby that will involve connecting with others or signing kids up for extracurricular activities such as music or sports. If you’ve gone through a difficult time it may mean joining a grief support group or attending a recovery group. If religious, it may mean finding a place of worship and connecting with a community there.
Of course, as we’ve already mentioned, social connections are built into our programming at the Circle of Care. As a small example, we have a lot of classes and programs for parents, so if you have a child under 6 you could sign up for our Parents as Teachers Program. If you are a father, you can be a part of our Darn Good Dads Fatherhood program. Both of these programs not only have great content, but have monthly fun social connection opportunities. If you have teens or preteens, the Parent Project® is absolutely fantastic, and social connections are core to the program. Again, that is just a sample for parents, social connections are woven into all our programming.
Opportunities for social connection abound. They are critical to a happy, healthy life and a strong family. There’s no need to be alone. Connecting with others will not only make things better for you, but better for your family as a whole.