Written by Andrea Knox, former SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development & Resiliency Field Specialist.
Picture in your mind a chain. Each link of that chain is connected to the others. If one link falls it does not go far because of the connection it has to the others. Likewise, a child with close ties to family, friends, school, and the community is less likely to fall into a pattern of destructive behavior because of the positive connections in his life. Those connections provide him with a higher level of security knowing he has a supportive network to lean on during tough times giving him the confidence to take healthy chances in order to reach his potential.
A secure connection starts at home. When a child knows that his parents love and support him unconditionally he is able to connect with others more comfortably. Children lacking that foundational piece from home may become centered on themselves or do anything to connect with others even if it is damaging behavior. For some children connections to family may be weak due to hurried schedules, distance between family members and spending time alone in front of televisions, video games, computers and other screens. Therefore, it is more important than ever to make a concerted effort to spend time together to build and sustain family connections. Put limits on screen time. Keep televisions, computers and cell phones out of bedrooms including teenagers’ rooms. As soon as we replace each other’s company for time in front of a screen we’re eroding our connections. Though social networking sites may be able to provide connections for youth, they should not be relied on to replace real life connections.
While connection begins with the family, it is also important for youth to have connections with friends, school and the larger community. Multiple connections offer security in all circles of their life. Educational, civic, faith-based, and sports groups can all help build connections in a child’s life and provide them will a true sense of belonging.
Consider the following questions posted by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, resiliency expert, on the Fostering Resilience website to help you think about how connected your child is to his family and beyond.
- Do we build a sense of physical safety and emotional security within our home?
- Does my child know that I am absolutely crazy in love with him?
- Do I understand that the challenges my child will put me through on his path towards independence are normal developmental phases or will I take them so personally that our relationship will be harmed?
- Do I allow my child to have and express all types of emotions or do I suppress unpleasant feelings? Is he learning that going to other people for emotional support during difficult times is productive or shameful?
- Do we do everything to address conflict within our family and work to resolve problems rather than let them fester?
- Do we have a television and entertainment center in almost every room or do we create a common space where our family shares time together?
- Do I encourage my child to take pride in the various ethnic, religious, or cultural groups to which we belong?
- Do I jealously guard my child from developing close relationships with others or do I foster healthy relationships that I know will reinforce my positive messages?
- Do I protect my friends' and neighbors’ children, just as I hope they will protect mine?
Next time we will continue to explore the Dr. Ginsburg’s seven “C’s” of resiliency and discuss character.
For more information visit the Fostering Resilience website or read Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg.