In our sixth blog post of the series preparing to learn, we will focus on the importance of social support in the lives of young learners.
As social creatures, humans need healthy social connections in all aspects of our lives in order to thrive. Young people especially need to feel supported and cared for or they won’t be able to fully participate in any learning that is being asked of them. Making sure that their child is surrounded by caregivers, family and community members, teachers, and peers who can provide your child with strong social bonds is an important way that any caregiver can set their child up for success.
In this modern world that focuses on money and material possessions as markers of success, it is easy to forget that social connections are just as important to living a successful life as any other aspect. When someone feels socially isolated or rejected, they can experience real physical pain and their quality of life is impacted just as much as with any physical injury. In particular, strong social support has been shown to increase resilience to stress and reduce the risks of developing depression or post traumatic stress disorder following an illness or traumatic event. In fact, social isolation may be as bad for our health as smoking!
It has been found that although both are important, the quality of the relationships in someones life matter more than the quantity of relationships. Not only do high quality social bonds help a child to be healthy emotionally and physically, but they can also help a child to develop strong social skills themselves. It has been shown that children who grow up with strong social and emotional capabilities will have greater educational and career success later in life.
Primary caregivers are often the main provider of social support, especially early in a child’s life. As children age, however, they can begin to form meaningful relationships with other adults in their communities such as their teachers, extended family members and religious and community leaders. We encourage every caregiver to take some time early in their child’s life to identify who they can encourage their child to form these social bonds with: who can your child turn to if they are struggling at school? Who can they trust to advocate for them and to champion their needs as they grow? Who in their lives has valuable skills and can mentor them as they enter adolescence?
Providing another human with strong social support is not an easy task, and for working parents or those with many children it is important that you know you don’t have to be everything in your child’s life. Sometimes the most beneficial thing you can do is to connect those in your care with a circle of mentors, friends, educators, and family members who can support them in ways that you can’t.
Having the time, energy, and resources to socially support a child is a privilege that not every caregiver enjoys. Parents who are young, financially marginalized, or single, face even more barriers to supporting their child emotionally. By writing this blog post I do not mean to diminish these struggles and instead hope to empower every caregiver to identify all the ways in which they can care for their child and to seek out help when they cannot provide all of the support their child needs. To aid in this, I have included a list of local support services below which might be helpful to parents who feel isolated or unable to fully support their children emotionally.
Local support services