Why We Need Social Connections

social connectionsWelcome to everyone who has just subscribed to this blog!  Thanks to those who have Liked the Facebook page too.  In another week of isolation (looking after children in various stages of recovering from illness), it really hit me how important it is to feel part of a social group, even if it’s just online.

On the way back from a quick trip to the shops yesterday I found myself accosting an elderly lady and telling her about my children, and listening to her stories of her daughter and granddaughter. I usually talk to old ladies because I think they might live alone and not get to talk to people very much, but this time I think it was more for me. ‘Look! I’m part of a wider society! I have a civic role!’ my subconscious was probably thinking.

We all need a mixture of alone time, one-to-one time and group time, but we need different proportions. Some people like to be in a constant social whirl, some are drawn to being with just one other person, and others need lots of time alone to recharge their batteries. A basic leaning towards one or another seems to be innate, you can see it in your children from an early age. But even those of us who need more alone time are still social creatures. I am quite happy to spend time alone, but not if I think everyone’s forgotten about me. I like to feel my social connections are strong enough to withstand long periods of withdrawal.

Which brings me on to a really simple point about our children, which is that they are born both with this need to be accepted in their social group, and the need to define who they are as individuals. Or, to sum it up using just two exciting words, our children are born genetically programmed to seek both integration and individuation. They actually want to know clearly, and follow, the rules of their society so that they fit in and feel safe, and they need to be allowed to find out and feel respected for who they are and what makes them unique.

Although in varying degrees, we all have that basic innate urge to be the same and be different. Two other snappy words might be structure and freedom. With our children, focusing predominantly on one need at the expense of the other doesn’t take into account the needs of the whole child. Perhaps our job as parents lies in recognising and respecting both sets of needs, just to sum it up and make it sound easy.

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