The importance of creating in-person social connections as a lifelong skill
In-person social connections are positively linked to long-term success, both personally and professionally, and they may play a role in your child’s mental health, too.
The pros and cons of technology for relationships
While modern technology has made our lives easier in a lot of really incredible ways, it has also changed the way that humans, especially teens and young adults, interact with each other – both good and bad. The internet, smartphones, and laptop computers have made it easier to connect and communicate with others, but interactions through a screen or a message cannot provide the value that in-person social connections can have on teens and students.
Technology is here to stay in all aspects of life, but, with how intertwined we all are with technology, we must be extra conscious of our in-person interactions and prioritize them as best we can. For young adults, these in-person connections can have a lasting impact, and, as parents and educators, it’s important to encourage our students to build these connections early.
The benefits of creating in-person social connections as teens
There are a few key reasons why learning how to connect with others is a crucial lifelong skill, and the benefits are abundant.
For example, when your child is good at building social connections from a young age, they are more likely to communicate effectively with others in their adult life, which is an important skill for personal and professional relationships. Furthermore, as your child grows and builds more connections, they are slowly growing a network that may come in handy later in life.
While “networking” is commonly a term used by adults once they enter the workforce, the concept of building a network applies throughout your life, and by connecting with others in-person early, those connections may just become the path to a new opportunity, a career change, or a professional mentor later in life.
Lastly, there has been recent research linking in-person social interaction with mental health and self-esteem, especially in young adults. A recent study by the CDC found that high school students at 60% more likely to report mental health concerns when they don’t feel well-connected to others at school. Another study found a strong correlation between mental health and interpersonal relationships, further demonstrating a need for in-person connections.
How do I help my child build social connections?
As educators and parents, we are always looking for ways to set our kids up for long term success, and helping them to build in-person social connections is one of the easiest ways to do that. But how, specifically, can we help? Here are a few ways you can facilitate the growth of social connections for your teen:
Encourage participation in extracurricular activities. While teens will meet plenty of people in the classroom, building relationships outside of the classroom is often where the benefits are the greatest. Extracurricular activities also help your child branch out from the other students they spend 35+ hours a week with during school hours and tie their relationships to something they’re passionate about. From joining a sports team to trying out for a play at a local theater, there are so many wonderful opportunities for your child to meet new people and build connections outside of the classroom.
Practice confidence. One of the biggest obstacles for teens to build social connections and relationships is shyness or anxiety over interacting with people, especially people they don’t know. But confidence is a learned skill, and you can help teach your child to be comfortable in unfamiliar situations and better prepare them to build proactive relationships with others. A great way to do this is to give them opportunities to push themselves outside of their comfort zone with the safety net of your presence or advice. For example, have them call and make appointments for themselves or challenge them to strike up a conversation with someone in their class haven’t talked to much. Practice makes perfect when it comes to confidence and comfort.
Model good social connections. All the way until they are off to college, kids and teens are closely watching their parents to learn skills or how to act in certain situations, so by modeling healthy and productive social connections for your kids, they will pick up on those skills and may learn a thing or two for themselves. Invite friends over for dinner regularly, have a casual conversation with a server or barista our in public, or take your child to work with you during summer break to let them observe how you interact with others out in the world.
At Clackamas Middle College, we aim to give our students opportunities for social connection as much as we encourage and support academic excellence. Learn more about our approach today.