Want to Boost Your Parenting Happiness?
A growing body of research confirms the importance of social connection. Those benefits include better physical and mental health, less parenting stress, and improved parent-child relationships. Being well-connected makes us happier, healthier, and can even add years to our lives! Another bonus? Creating support systems for yourself also establishes important networks for your teen. Interviews with hundreds of parents and kids reveal having connections with a variety of caring adults is highly protective. The more positive role models present in teens’ lives the better. This includes coaches, teachers, neighbors, clergy, and family or kin networks. These caring adults are also important partners for you. They provide guidance that compliments your parenting. Even more, they offer meaningful connections important for your own parenting happiness and well-being.
3 Tips to Strengthen Networks
It’s important to invest in social relationships. Consider these strategies as you work on building social ties or nurturing preexisting networks.
1) Get to Know Other Parents
Stick around after school events to meet other parents and caring adults. Invite families to join you at your home for a get-together. Too intimidating? Look for opportunities in your community to casually engage with other parents. YMCAs, libraries, and religious or cultural groups are great starting points. Search online for local parenting groups, events, chat or support groups. Getting to know other parents of teens can create a sense of camaraderie in a shared experience. Moreover, it can decrease feelings of isolation.
2) Get Involved
There’s a popular saying, “It takes a village.” Build your proverbial “village” of like-minded folks with values that mirror your own. Get involved in a range of activities and encourage your teen to do the same. It will expose you both to diverse perspectives. More importantly, it will increase your odds of connecting. Try your hand at volunteering. Giving back boosts feel-good emotions and offers opportunities to bond with others with similar interests.
3) Get Connected
According to Dr. Emma Seppalla, Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, it’s not about how many relationships you have but how connected you feel. “The good news is that social connection has more to do with a subjective feeling of connection than your number of friends. You could have 1,000 friends and still feel low in connection (thus the expression loneliness in a crowd) but you could also have no close friends or relatives but still feel very connected from within,” she writes. This is good news for introverts or busy parents who are overwhelmed with the thought of having to invest time in additional relationships. Focus on high quality, meaningful connections. It’s truly the quality and not quantity, that matters.
The Ties That Bind
This parenting gig can be tough. We all question our choices and struggle over decisions. Establishing a parenting network builds confidence and reduces stress. While it takes some effort (and sometimes leaving your comfort zone), it can pay dividends. We are social beings. Feeling connected feels good. So, whether it’s laughing with a friend over FaceTime, exchanging texts with that mom or dad you met at the PTO meeting, or swapping stories with your exercise classmates, social connection binds us together in a common experience. And, it can improve our sense of parenting happiness.