The Power of Connection

We raise our children to prepare them to ultimately stand on their own. But we also want them to understand that independent people often choose to share their lives with others. They make their own decisions and know that others’ ideas can shape their own. Let them grow to be self-reliant, but to value interdependence. Teach them the value of human connection.

Rather than be beaten down when life gets tough, we hope they’ll somehow grow from each test it offers. The choices we make in challenging times often make the difference between growth and spiraling downward. Reaching out to others is a central strategy to manage stress.

Families as Testing Grounds

Families are the launching pads from which children learn to connect with and relate to people, whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or the workplace. Hopefully, our homes are places where young people experience joy to its fullest and gain comfort at the most basic levels. But homes are complicated places. With our families we learn to stick together and draw strength from each other through difficult times. Our homes are the places where we display vulnerabilities and develop strengths.

Get it? Our families are models for life. Good times. Tough times. Those want-to-pull-out-your-hair times. But ultimately our homes are where we learn human support means everything.

Connection Protects in Hard Times

Although the list is endless, here are five ways connection makes you stronger.

  1. Many problems are best-solved when you think them through with the help of others. You gain perspective when others act as a sounding board, allowing you to discuss challenges and toss around ideas.
  2. It may seem like you will never feel good again after you’ve been deeply hurt. Or, that it’s impossible to move beyond a crisis. Having someone reassure, “You will get through this,” can make the difference between resignation and hope. It reinforces that you are not alone.
  3. Sometimes it takes experience to know how to navigate untraveled waters. Why live through every mistake, when you can benefit from the wisdom of those who have preceded you in the journey.
  4. Often it takes faith (religious or not) to believe you’ll get through a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Faith is sometimes hard to maintain alone, but can be reinforced within a community.
  5. A sense of purpose gets you through momentary challenges. Purpose is often discovered by others reminding you that you matter.

Reaching Out is an Act of Courage

In the worst of times, those who survive are those who reach out to others. We must be very careful not to paint rugged independence as the only picture of strength. Strong people admit—and address—vulnerabilities. They take whatever actions are necessary to thrive. Strong people give when they are able and receive when it’s their turn.

This message benefits us all, but may have particular importance for teen boys since traditional notions of masculinity often dictate that young men should not complain. They should handle it. Without emotion. In relative silence. But denial does not solve problems. Revealing emotions is the first step towards healing. Reaching out to others for guidance and companionship during the most challenging of times is courageous.

Relationships Complete Us

We hope our teens will grow to become adults able to experience life to its fullest. Relationships heighten joyous experiences and strengthen us during troubling times. Many of our closest relationships will be within family, but we can also find them within communities. A community is strongest when all of its members—children, teens, adults, and elders—are valued and connected. Humans function best when we draw strength from one another.

By Dr. Ken Ginsburg, Expert Advisor for the Center for Children and Youth, Professor of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and Founding Director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication.

Article originally published by the Center for Parent and Teen Communication.

The Center for Children and Youth offers virtual parenting guidance, online workshops, and teletherapy for children and teens. If you or your family needs additional support, schedule a parent consultation today.