Fostering Social Connection In Children to Promote Positive Mental Health
Children learn all sorts of habits early in life, and many of these go on to form their abilities, behaviors and life patterns as adults. Mental health habits are also created early in life, and there are things that parents, teachers and carers can do to promote positive mental health in children. One crucial aspect of mental well-being for people of all ages is having good social relationships. Even when children are little, you can start to help them foster healthy relationships with family members, caregivers, and friends, and this will improve their well-being long into the future. If you want to learn more about child development, behavior and mental health, click here to know more.
Why Is Socializing Important?
A well-socialized child is one that has enough relationships to make them feel like they belong and are valued, cared for and supported. According to psychologist Dr. Craig Sawchuk from the Mayo Clinic, socializing is key to good health. Socializing prevents feelings of loneliness, sharpens memory and cognitive skills, increases happiness and well-being and even extends lifespan. Teaching children the importance of socializing at a young age will create all sorts of long-term benefits. By interacting with others, children will:
- Develop a stronger sense of well-being and an understanding of who they are
- Increase their resilience and help them to navigate challenges better
- Improve their problem-solving skills
- Learn to set boundaries and stick up for themselves
- Develop empathy for others
- Gain a greater sense of being valued and loved
- Develop secure attachments
- Be more adaptable as adults, and be able to slot into various social settings successfully
All in all, socializing children at a young age helps them to turn into well-rounded adults that are independent, confident and kind. Whether you are a parent, caregiver or teacher, it is important that you commit to being a healthy model for them, so that they know what to expect and how to act when they interact with others.
The Brain Is a Social Organ
According to a 2006 seminar published by Murdoch Children’s Research Centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia titled ‘Promoting Emotional Development in Young Children’, the brain is a ‘social organ’, and our minds and emotions become organized through engagement with others. This source suggests that emotional development begins early in life, and that the social environment a child has in the first 5 years is linked to emotional well-being, adaptability, functionality, and relationship success as an adult. Therefore the way parents, caregivers, and teachers act with young children (i.e. whether or not they are warm, sensitive, responsive, consistent, attentive, supportive and available) is just as important as what they do (i.e. whether they soothe, clothe, feed, teach and guide them).
Create Social Habits
The study ‘Close Friendship Strength and Broader Peer Group Desirability As Differential Predictors of Adult Mental Health’ published on PubMed from the National Library of Medicine in 2019 found that children and adolescents who had better friendships and more socialization had lower social anxiety, a higher sense of self-worth and less depression by the age of 25.
There are all sorts of ways you can help children to develop social relationships and regular social habits. Here are some ideas:
- Encourage them to have regular play dates with other children
- Take them to social places like playgrounds or the local pool
- Set up ‘grandparent days’ for them (or days for other family members)
- Sign them up for a class or club that matches their interests – this gives them the opportunity to create like-minded relationships
- Encourage them to connect with others in the community – go out for walks and interact with neighbors, attend local festivals and engage with local spaces
- Work on positive ways to solve problems and manage conflict between you and your partner, with your child, and with friends and family members
- Have your own vibrant social life, and friends over regularly
Core Features of Emotional Intelligence
According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, emotional development is defined by a person’s ability to:
- Identify and understand their feelings
- Accurately read and comprehend the emotions of others
- Manage strong emotions and emotional expression in a constructive way
- Regulate behavior
- Develop empathy for others
- Establish and maintain relationships
Helping children to develop social habits and social networks is crucial for their development in these areas.
Raising Children, ‘Good Mental Health for Children: 3-8 Years’, https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/health-daily-care/mental-health/children-s-mental-health#:~:text=Encourage%20your%20child%20to%20connect,to%20relate%20to%20different%20people.
Mayo Clinic, ‘Mayo Clinic Minute: The benefits of being socially connected’, https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-minute-the-benefits-of-being-socially-connected/#:~:text=Socializing%20not%20only%20staves%20off,even%20help%20you%20live%20longer.
Moore, Tim. “PROMOTING EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN YOUNG CHILDREN: RELATIONSHIPS AND PROGRAMS.” Centre for Community Child Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne (2006).
Narr, Rachel K., et al. PubMed, National Library of Medicine “Close friendship strength and broader peer group desirability as differential predictors of adult mental health.” Child development 90.1 (2019): 298-313.
National Scientific Council on the Devloping Child, ‘Children’s Emotional Development
Is Built into the Architecture of Their Brains’, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2004/04/Childrens-Emotional-Development-Is-Built-into-the-Architecture-of-Their-Brains.pdf