Relationships and supportive social networks can be an incredibly protective factor for mental health and well-being. This is true for everyone: children, teenagers, parents, non-parents, and everyone in between. These connections help us feel supported, validated, and seen. They give us the strength and resilience to make it through hard times. And these relationships are more about quality than quantity. Kids need one supportive, consistent adult to turn to when things are hard. Having one good, reliable friendship can avoid a tremendous amount of loneliness and social isolation. Parents benefit from having even a small, but committed, social network (aka, “the village”) to help them with the logistical, physical, and emotional challenges of raising kids.
Supportive relationships are not about perfection. They are not about always being in agreement on everything or completely devoid of conflict. Relationships can be messy and that is okay. These relationships are about showing up and being there for one another, with openness and curiosity rather than judgement. They are about cultivating community and providing a stable foundation from which we can try new things and be ourselves and make mistakes, and still feel secure and safe.
When we are struggling to respond to a tricky situation, holding value in our relationships and choosing an approach that preserves our connectedness can be a guiding light that will help sustain both ourselves and those around us.