Health and Well-Being: Blogging Through COVID Together — Belonging
May 11, 2020
In the very first blog post we talked about well-being having three interconnected parts.
Today we are talking about belonging which is that beautiful and essential space between self and other. What I like about belonging and connection is how simple and how powerful it is at the same time. It is really like a super-power that is always available. What I also love about the power of belonging is that the research behind it is so clear and so absolutely fascinating! I won’t get into it all here because I promised this blog would be more practical tools, but I will tell you that science tells us that social connection and belonging impacts our health, happiness and success in life. That, of course, is what we all want for our children. You can find out more about why it works this way and how to get more of it here: The Secret to Health, Happiness and Success .
Human beings are social animals and we are biologically designed to work together. We need each other to survive. In his book, Social, Matthew Leiberman, says that our need to belong is one of the primary drivers of human behavior. This makes sense when we think back to the early days of evolution. If we didn’t form communities, we would not have survived as a species.
So how does this translate to the real world of parenting and particularly during this time of COVID-19? Right now, our children (and ourselves to be honest) are in a period of time where social connection is a lot different, and often lacking in our worlds. When this happens our behaviours (and often not the best behaviors) start ramping up in an attempt to meet that need. Dr Jodi Carrington, in her book, Kids these Days, reminds us that whenever we think that behavior is attention-seeking that we should reframe it to connection-seeking and see how that changes our response. I think changing our response is important, but this bit of understanding of human behaviour can also help us with prevention too. How can we help our children (and ourselves) fill this need for social connection and avoid some of this re-connection behavior?
As always here are some things to consider:
- Light up for each other: Another thing I was reminded about by Dr Jody Carrington is that everyone needs someone that lights up when they see them. I don’t know about you but spending time with the same people over and over can be exhausting and yes, we love them but…It is easy to get caught up in routines and all of the crazy expectations on us right now but try this out in the next few weeks and see the magic you can create with this simple practice. Light up when you see those children of yours. This can be a huge, crazy light up moment for the ones that are seeking your attention (connection) a lot (always in your face) or a quieter smile or comment for the one that is hiding in their room. This works for children and adults alike. People may be suspicious of your motives at first, but it is well worth it.
- Belonging Clues: Belonging clues are simple behaviors that make people feel like they are valued and safe in groups. These are simple things like eye contact, giving attention to someone, taking turns in conversation. It is anything that lets the other person know that they are unique and valued and the relationship you have is important. When my children were younger, we had several of their cousins visiting for a week one summer. The week after they left, my son started calling me Auntie Gail instead of Mom. When I asked him about it, he told me that when the cousins asked me for something, I would answer right away but it often took him a whole series of “mom” calls before I responded. Ouch…. but point taken, he needed to know that our relationship mattered.
- Relationship Rituals: Right now, having some kind of routine is keeping many people sane. When I was a child, we had something called conversation time every Sunday evening before dinner. We were allowed a glass of pop which was never usually allowed, and all 7 of us sat down and had conversation. With our own children we called family meetings. We put together a joint agenda, worked through things we were struggling with and made plans for activities together. If you are going to give it a try, make sure you set up some group norms especially the one that says how you will make decisions. Maybe your ethnic or family culture has a connection ritual of some sort that you want to revisit right now. There was a lot of enthusiasm for family meetings when the kids were young and some eye rolling when they were older, but they came. Just like in a work meeting good snacks help! If this is just one more thing to do right now then no pressure, but I will tell you it was those connection rituals that got us through when things were difficult, and we had to find ways “get through this” together.
I would love to hear more about your family rituals and ways of connecting so share your stories, feedback and ideas! As you head into this new week of COVID crazy, make use of this amazing superpower of connection and go light up for those beautiful children of yours no matter what they are up to at the moment! So simple, so powerful!
- Jody Carrington, 2019, Kids These Days: A Game Plan for (RE)Connecting with Those We Teach, Lead & Love. Friesen Press.
- Daniel Coyle, 2018 The Culture Code. Random House Books.
- Matthew Leiberman, 2013, Social: Why our Brains are Wired to Connect. Crown Publishing Compa