We all need feelings of connectedness

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The current pandemic and confinement to our homes has made us aware how connections to others are such an important part of life. Regardless of whether we’re mainly introverted or extraverted, we need a sense of being connected to others in this world.

Connectedness is how close or related we feel to other people or groups. It’s a feeling of being loved, cared for, valued, and respected. We can feel connected to our families or friends or to organizations, like schools or clubs. We can also feel connected through pets.

These connections give us a sense of belonging. They make a big difference to our wellbeing. Children who feel connected to their families and schools are less likely to have behavior and mental health problems (1,2).

Connectedness with others not only makes us feel good about ourselves, it can open doors to learning and new relationships. Feeling connected in one part of our life can compensate for lower levels in other areas. So, if a child doesn’t have a sense of connectedness at school, they can gain their sense of value from family or community groups.

How do you find out where your child feels connected?
There are three main ways to figure out connectedness in your child.:

1. Watch your child. The simplest way to figure out your child’s sense of connectedness is to watch them. Does your child gravitate to certain people or places? Do they protest if they have to spend time with some people or in some places? Be sure to include family members, other children, neighbors, teachers, education assistants, therapists, other school staff, staff at clubs or community groups. Sometimes children develop a connection to kindly bus drivers and cleaning staff – don’t forget them,

2. Watch the other people. Another thing to watch for is how other people treat your child. Do they show that they care about and value your child? Do they respect your child as a person?

3. Ask your child. Make a list of people and places you think your child feels connected to. Ask your child:  
“If you’re worried or sad about something, who do you go to?”
“I feel happy when I’m with ______.”
“_______ is important to me.”
Since most of us are confined to our homes, you’ll have to skip to #3 above or try to picture past encounters. I’ve had some sweet moments with children when I asked them, “Who makes you feel happy when you think about them?
Here are two responses I received:

I thought I’d get a grandparent or friend but one child wanted Bear, his dog, and the other wanted Mickey Mouse. I’m fine with that if thinking of those things makes them feel happy. Go with what you get.

What do I do with this information?
Now use this information to help your child feel more connected while in confinement. Here are some ideas:
Make a picture or collage of the person, things, or people who make your child feel connected. Put it up on the wall or wherever your child wants so they can look at it and feel happy. I like to make thought bubbles out of cardboard, put a drawing or picture of the person on them, and put them in a prominent place.
Contact that person by video (for example, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom) or telephone and let your child chat. It’s usually best to help your child organize what they want to say and show the other person beforehand.
Have your child make something for the other person that tells them how they feel. This could be a paper hug like the ones below – you can find other ideas on the internet. Mail it to the special person.  

  • Encourage the other person to make a paper hug for other small gift for your child and send it by.
  • Ask your child what makes them think of the other person or animal. It might be an object – my grandma always wore a brooch which by looking at it or holding it makes me feel comfort. It could also be a certain aroma (like baking bread) or particular dish. I listened to a podcast the other day where a person in confinement made dishes his mother used to cook. They helped remind him of his deep connection to his mother.
  • Online interactive games can also give your child a feeling of connectedness. If these activities are well-supervised, they can be positive experiences.
  • Tell your child you love them and how much you value them. Do it every day!

Make sure you help yourself feel connected. Contact important friends, family members, and colleagues – the ones that make you feel valued, loved, and respected. Do things that remind you of those people. These things will help you stay healthy and you’ll be able to help your children even more.

Do you have other ideas? Please share them

1. Foster, C. E., Horwitz, A., Thomas, A., Opperman, K., Gipson, P., Burnside, A., Stone, D. M., & King, C. A. (2017). Connectedness to family, school, peers, and community in socially vulnerable adolescents. Children and youth services review, 81, 321–331.
2. Marraccini, M. E., & Brier, Z. (2017). School connectedness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors: A systematic meta-analysis. School psychology quarterly32(1), 5–21.

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