Socialization is a basic instinct that drives behavior. Wolves live in packs, cattle move in herds, fish swim in schools, geese travel in gaggles. 🙂 Anyway, it seems that the most developed of the animal kingdom seem to have missed the proverbial innate cues somehow. Humans tend to withdraw to the comfort and familiarity of family, at the sacrifice of developing a social network, leading to a growing trend of isolated parents, children and families.
In the past, communities and friends were equally as important as family in influencing and shaping children. Many cultures still live in this manner, adopting the “village to raise a child” mentality. American society has migrated to a more individualistic approach, where neighbors and friends overstep unspoken boundaries if they give child-rearing advice.
Unfortunately, this creates several problems. First, social networks provide healthy outlets and support systems for families. The more a parent feels she can rely on others if something were to come up, the more capable the parent feels at maintaining the safety and health of the family. Therefore, when a parent has no social system to speak of, she will likely report struggling with feeling competent at handling things alone.
Secondly, children need adult and peer interactions to learn social cues and appropriate world views. When a child spends most of his time at home, he lacks helpful opportunities to develop tolerance, understanding, compassion, empathy and an appropriate view of self in comparison to others.
There is another component that plays into socialization and families that needs to be discussed. Research indicates that the more severe the problematic behaviors are in children, the more isolated the families become. It is understandable that parents want to shield tantrums and difficult situations from outside eyes, but those are the times when support and objectivity are most critical.
Here are some tips to help you and your families get plugged in to healthy and helpful social settings:
- Encourage and support your children’s participation in sports, extra-curricular activities and clubs. (See the article on sleep for tips on not over-scheduling)
- Join a mom’s, dad’s or parent’s group with members that have children around the same age.
- Take advantage of environments where you can create friendships through common bonds (PTA meetings, sports games, association gatherings, etc.)
- Establish play dates for you and your children. (Kids play together while parents get a break to talk with other adults)
- Be appreciative and thankful for family members who you can ask to help in times of need, and don’t be scared to ask for it.
- Model healthy interactions, friendships and social habits for your children. If you lack skills in that area, model after someone you know who does it well.
It is all about learning and growing together- there are no limits to the benefits of socialized families!