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Presence Over Pixels

Imagine the experiences we can have when we choose presence over pixels: engaging conversations, laughing without distractions, and being present in the moment.

While smartphones offer a world of information at our fingertips, they can also become barriers to meaningful connections. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our relationships and well-being is to put our screens down and eyes up. Whether it’s a family dinner, a catch-up with friends, or a peaceful moment in nature, the best “stories” are lived, not posted.

Creating Connections IRL

Humans are wired for connection. When we don’t connect, the consequences can be dire. A lack of connections can have the same deadly impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” released last year by the Surgeon General.

Our youth have more options for connection than ever, thanks to advances in digital technology. But they report feeling more isolated than youth of previous generations. And the more time they spend on social media, the more likely they are to say that they are lonely.

Connectedness is both more important than ever and more challenging. But the benefits are huge. And while building connection might seem challenging, it can also be fun. We’ve rounded up some tips and resources to help. 

 

Flip for Quick Tips on Connectedness

Family Meals

Children and teens who eat dinner with their families are more likely to do well in school and less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
This isn't one-size-fits-all. Can't do every day? Aim for once a week. And it doesn't have to be dinner. Consider breakfast or brunch.

Teen not talking? You're not alone. Try a game or conversation cards. Or start the conversation by sharing your own stories. Keep in mind that this is about building connection, and bringing up that missing math assignment might not be the best way to get them to open up.

Conversations

Bruh. Cheugy. Lewk. Talking with teens can seem like speaking another language at times.
Recognize the positives. Look for opportunities to praise and to offer positive feedback.
Ask about their interests, and learn more about the topics they care about.
Respect differences of opinions.
Find screen-free things to do together, like playing board games, catching a ballgame, or going for hikes.

Small Steps

Connection can be hard for some people, especially those who have autism, anxiety or depression. Small starts can lead to big gains.
Nurturing is a good first step for building connection. If being with people brings anxiety, try caring for a pet. If that's too hard, start with a plant.
If sensory issues make family dinners stressful, get creative. Open a window to dissipate strong smells or opt for brunch with blander foods. Fans can also help with strong smells and provide white noise when needed.

Family  Cards

Build stronger connections with family conversation starters. These downloadable cards include a variety of topics ranging from thought-provoking to laugh-producing.

Connection BINGO

Create meaningful connections with this fun, screen-free game that encourages you to get to know people better. 

Wellness Journal

Encourage healthy connections with a free, downloadable wellness journal. Taking care  of your physical and mental health is a big part of building connections, and journaling is an important tool to help you keep on top of your well-being.

Building Resilience

Relationship and connection help us weather trauma and pain. And they are key to healing. Learn more about how to build resilience using connection in a guide we created with Fredericksburg Parent and Family Magazine.

The Department of Health and Human Services offers these tips for developing and strengthening connections:

Tips for Parents & Caregivers

Invest in your relationship

Model healthy social connection

Monitor online presence

Connect youth with other helpers

Talk about connections and relationships

Tips for Individuals

Participate in community groups

Seek out opportunities to serve others

Nurture your relationships

Be responsive and supportive

Engage with people of different backgrounds

Seek help during times of struggle

FAQ

How can I build a positive relationship with a child or teen?

The National Institutes of Health offers this advice, “You can create a more positive relationship by spending quality time with your teen. Listen to what they’re thinking and feeling. Show interest and concern over their problems. That helps them feel more connected with you.” Check out their helpful guide for parenting teens. 

Why does connection matter?

Social isolation decreases life expetency and increases the risks of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It also lowers immunity to illness and increases the odds of developing dementia. Plus, children and youth who report having supportive relationships are much more likely to do well in school. Learn more from the Surgeon General’s report

Can I influence my teen's relationships with peers?

You can help your child or teen develop positive friendships by being familiar with their friends. Also, model positive relationships with your friends and family. Have open non-judgmental talks about your family’s values and encourage your child or loved one to come to you with concerns about substances and intimacy. 

What if I can't connect with my child or loved one?

Some children connect more easily than others, and there are a range of factors that can inhibit connection. These include disability, illness, financial problems, LGBTQ+ issues and more. Patience and perseverance are key. Here are some resources for those challenges:

  • It can add new stressors to parenting when your child is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. First and foremost, make sure your child feels loved and supported. Johns Hopkins has a wonderful guide for parents of LGBTQ youth. You can also find resources from PFLAG. Fredericksburg Pride has a helpful guide for parents that includes local support groups. 
  • If your child has a disability, this can increase isolation for both the child and the family. The disAbility Resource Center has local groups and events to help. Each school division has a Parent Resource Center that also includes many helpful events, videos and books. Fredericksburg Parent has a listing of local autism supports
  • Building connections can be especially challenging when you’re busy trying to make ends meet. The Rappahannock Area Health District can help you navigate available community resources through their Assistance Form. Rappahannock United Way has a list of financial resources
  • And please seek help if you need it. Mental Health America of Fredericksburg has a list of mental health providers. If your child is in crisis, please call 988. 

Resilience Resources

 

Want to a deep dive on resilience? We offer a wealth of resources: quick tips, book recommendations, videos and more.

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