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Youth Social Connection 

Social connection relates to both how many friends or other interpersonal relationships someone has as well as factors like how meaningful and supportive their interpersonal relationships are. Being socially connected is the opposite of being lonely, or not having people you can depend on. Youth social connection can be broken down into several areas including: 

  • Connections youth have with their parents/guardians and family, 

  • Connections youth have with trusted adults other than their parents/guardians and,

  • Connections youth have with other youth/ their peers.

 

National and local data show that one of the drivers of teen mental health challenges (e.g., high stress, depression, and suicidal ideation) is young people’s levels of social connection. That means that bolstering all of these areas can have a positive effect on youth mental health. 

Tips for Building Connection with Teens as an Adult

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  • Ensuring young people know they and their contributions matter and are valued in different relationships and settings.

    • Show teens gratitude for their contributions to family (e.g. doing chores, taking care of siblings), friends (e.g. being a good listener), and community (e.g., things like volunteering).

  • Recognizing young people’s need for autonomy, particularly as youth get older and their brains develop.

    • Letting young people lead and plan out daily activities or how group/family leisure time gets spent.

  • Recognizing teens today face different challenges compared to previous generations

    • Make efforts to ensure teens feel seen and understood.

    • Help teens process feelings of stress, nervousness, or overwhelm.

  • Driving a bonus kid to or from school or another activity? Hanging on the field, gym, or auditorium pre- or post-game or performance? These are great opportunities to show young people you care.

    • Ask teens how they’re liking school, sports, or another club so far this year or term.

    • Comment on something great you heard they were up to. Just haven’t seen them in a while–ask what they’ve been up to.

    • Bonus Tip: Talking about grades can be stressful for some youth, but you can still ask about school. Try-->​What are you learning about this week in [class name]?

  • Create rituals: Friday night pizza or tacos; getting your nails or hair done together; following a specific team or watching a specific show--all of these provide shared experiences and space to connect. 

 

  • Deepen connection by limiting distractions when you talk with teens. This can mean making a “no phones or TV during meals” rule (that EVERYONE follows) or asking your teen to ditch the headphones/earbuds during shorter car rides.

    • Bonus Tip: This may also mean things like not checking your own phone or tablet for work emails outside of work hours or while taking time off.

 

  • Ask if you can follow them or be their friend on social media and try following some of the celebrities or influencers they do. Knowing the trends and content can introduce you to new things to talk to them about. If you do see things like harmful/hurtful language or other causes for concern this can also be something to bring up.

 

  • Go for a walk, hike or bike ride together. Even small amounts of physical activity can benefit mental health AND you can use the time to catch up.

 

  • Volunteer with them! Volunteering together can take some of the pressure of having to have a long conversation.

  • Long distance? Haven’t seen someone in person for a while? Send a text or message on social media. Let young people know you’re thinking about them and hope they’re doing well, but you’re there if they need to talk.

Tips for Supporting Peer Social Connection Among Teens

  • Host a neighborhood night!

    • Show a fun movie or set up a few board games.

    • Host a potluck or make cooking a pizza or baking cookies part of the fun.

 

  • Talk to teens about the importance of social connection regularly.

    • Understanding if a teen is struggling with loneliness, isolation, or unhealthy relationships with peers or romantic partners is the first step in helping them.

    • Discuss the importance of not making others feel hurt or isolated, and noticing when peers might be feeling lonely also helps create connected environments.

  • Facilitate access to low-pressure, non-competitive environments that cultivate a growth mindset and provide connection opportunities with trusted adults and/or same age peers.

    • Support youth involvement in new hobbies or activities.

    • Encourage youth to communicate with new people and engage in new situations.

    • Reinforce that teens don’t have to be perfect at everything they do, some things can be just for fun.
       

  • Commit to building more in-person connection opportunities for young people. Driving to the mall? Going to a movie, a museum, the farmers market? Grabbing a bite to eat? Ask your pre-teen or teen if they want to bring a friend. In-person activities can help build peer relationships better than online activities in many cases. 

Are You Building Social Connection in Boise?

Use #LetsConnectBoise and tag Communities for Youth in a social media post to get highlighted.

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