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  5. Social Connectedness

Social Connectedness

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Two people holding hands.

Strong, healthy relationships are important throughout your life. Your social connections with family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others impact your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being.

The sections below contain useful information and resources to build, develop, and maintain healthy social connections.

  • Consider important connections in your life. Think about your family and friends.  If you have neglected some loved ones due to work demands or life stress, reach out and reestablish contact. Decide how you can revive valued relationships that may have weakened with time or during the pandemic.
  • Connect with someone from your social support network. Pick up the phone or send an email. Set a goal to maintain contact with your loved ones. 
  • Provide support to others and ask for help. Show your willingness to support others and reach out to your network for help when you need it.
  • Learn something new. Learning something new can be a valuable way to connect with others who share your interests. Take a virtual course, search online message boards for people who share your new interest, or reach out to friends with similar hobbies who might help teach you. 
  • Engage in structured physical activity. Regular participation in yoga or another exercise program can help you maintain your physical health while developing contacts with people who share your interests.

  • Share your feelings honestly. 
  • Ask for what you need from others.
  • Listen to others without judgement or blame. Be caring and empathetic. 
  • Disagree with others respectfully. Conflicts should not turn into personal attacks.
  • Avoid being overly critical, angry outbursts, and violent behavior. 
  • Expect others to treat you with respect and honesty in return.
  • Compromise. Try to come to agreements that work for everyone. 
  • Protect yourself from violent and abusive people.
  • Set boundaries with others. Decide what you are and aren't willing to do. It's okay to say no.

The basics of positive parenting is being empathetic, constructive, and supportive of your children when disciplining them.

A number of studies have shown that positive parenting is effective even for children with significant behavioral issues. In fact, these and other studies found that a positive approach to parenting was more effective than an extremely punitive approach, such as yelling and handing out harsh punishments. Another benefit of this approach is that is reduces the level of stress that both parents and children experience, which helps protect against stress-related health problems such as headaches, anxiety, an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, and gastrointestinal issues.

Positive parenting techniques will depend on your child’s age. For example:

  • Distracting a baby or toddler can be a good way to interrupt a negative behavior like touching something they shouldn’t or having a tantrum.
  • For elementary school age children, helping your child set achievable goals and celebrating successes as they work towards those goals is one good strategy.
  • For teens, respecting their opinions not only lets them know they can talk to you about anything, but it also shows them how to be respectful of others’ opinions and ideas.

These three strategies can help you take a positive approach to parenting your children at any age:

1. Find the Cause of the Behavior

Rather than just trying to correct a problem behavior like hitting, refusing to do chores, or staying out past curfew, consider whether there have been any changes in your family’s or child’s life that might be spurring the negative behavior. Is there a new sibling in the house? Has the family been under financial strain or has one of the parents started a demanding new job? Has a relative died?

If your children are older, sit down and have a calm, non-judgmental talk, asking what’s bothering them or causing stress in their life.

2. Look at Your Own Behavior

Children, no matter what their age, are products of their environment and often mirror their parents’ behaviors and attitudes. Do you have a short fuse? Do you approach things you don’t want to do with a grumble or sigh? Do you make excuses when you don’t come through on a promise?

Modeling positive behaviors will not only show your children a better approach, it will also have a positive impact on your mood and self-image.

3. Give Your Children Your Full Attention

You have a lot on your plate. You’re a parent, an employee, a daughter or son, a spouse or partner. And then there are all the distractions—cell phones, TV, computers.

Make it a habit not to multi-task while spending time with your children. Give them all your attention, listen to what they have to say, and engage in real conversation with them. It’ll not only strengthen the bond between you, but it will also help them learn how to focus and tune out distractions.

While you can’t completely avoid conflict in your relationships, you can take steps to resolve it as quickly as possible. These four steps are the best way to get started:

1. Identify the Problem

First, think about how the conflict started. Was it a misunderstanding? Were you actually upset about something else and let your bad feelings transfer to this situation? Is there a real difference of opinion that needs to be discussed?

2. Commit to Resolving the Problem

Once you think you know what the source of the conflict is, invite the others involved to share their understanding of the situation with a neutral moderator present. When you have a shared understanding of the issue, take some time away from each other to calm down and get some perspective.

3. Work Together to Find the Solution

When everyone is ready, get all the people involved back together with the moderator and brainstorm not just solutions, but also ways to avoid the same issue cropping up in the future.

4. Commit to Accepting the Resolution

Even if it’s the not the outcome you hoped for, you need to work on accepting the agreed-on resolution.

When you think about volunteering, the first thing that probably comes to mind is how volunteers help make a difference for the community, whether that means collecting food for a food bank, helping young learners master reading and math, providing companionship for older neighbors, or cleaning up a local waterway.

What you might not realize is that it also benefits the people who do the volunteer work. A recent university study found that people over 50 who were regular volunteers were less likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, which lowers the risk of other health problems including heart disease and stroke.

Another study found both physical and mental health benefits to volunteering. The people who participated in the study who were volunteers reported better physical health and a higher level of life satisfaction than people who did not volunteer.

Being a volunteer offers a wide range of health benefits, including:

1. Reducing Stress

Doing good for others increases the release of dopamine in the brain, which helps both decrease feelings of stress and increase positive, relaxed feelings. And managing stress also helps decrease your risk of stress-related health problems such as heart disease, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, a weakened immune system, and sleep problems.

2. Helping You Stay Fit

Volunteering can help you be more physically fit. One study found that people who volunteer were 1.8 times more likely to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for physical activity. If you want the fitness benefits of volunteering, look for projects that include more physical activity, whether that’s walks or runs to raise money for a cause, helping clean up a neighborhood park or build a playground, or helping build and rehab homes with a non-profit like Habitat for Humanity.

3. Enhancing Overall Well-being

Volunteering can increase your self-esteem and sense of purpose because you’re looking beyond your own needs and wants and focusing on the wellbeing of others. It’s also a great way to stay socially connected and make new friends, both of which have a positive effect on your psychological and cognitive health. One study discovered that of the people surveyed who volunteer 88% noted improved self-esteem, 93% noted an improvement in their mood, 75% felt physically healthier, and 34% could manage their chronic illnesses better.

There is a wealth of volunteer opportunities in every community. The key is to know where to look to find the ones you’re interested in. Check with local faith communities, non-profits, rec centers, cultural organizations, and schools.

Websites are another good resource for finding local, national, and international volunteer opportunities.

Try these sites to get started:

If you would like help with building and maintaining healthy relationships, your Component EAP is a good place to start.

Your EAP provides confidential counseling and can help you set personal goals to improve your personal relationships and develop an action plan for achieving your relationship goals.

EAP is available to you and your family members 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information, contact the DHS Worklife Team at worklife@hq.dhs.gov.

E-mail worklife@hq.dhs.gov to talk with a Work/Life coordinator at DHS.

Last Updated: 02/18/2022
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