Connection is a cornerstone of teen mental health. But what does it mean for teens and tweens to feel connected? Imagine that each positive relationship in your teen’s life is like a single strand in their individual safety net. Many relationships equal a strong safety net. When they’re struggling, make a mistake, or need help, it’s likely that at least one of those supportive connections can help your teen get back on track. But the fewer connections tweens and teens have, the less sturdy their safety net will be, and the more likely they are to slip through the cracks. To help your teen improve their connection to themselves and others, start with these four healthy habits:
1. Build a strong relationship with themselves.
Teens with high self-esteem have more positive relationships, and positive relationships lead to better self-esteem. Self-esteem often takes a hit during adolescence when physical, neurological, psychological and social changes combine with increased stress and responsibility. Healthy habits that boost teens’ connection with themselves include self-reflection, self-care, journaling, positive self-talk, and getting clear about personal values and goals. Encourage your teen to think about what it means to be their own best friend– how do you talk to someone you love and care about? What would you do if that person were having a hard time? Teens who love themselves have a built-in model of a supportive relationship, so they know they deserve a high level of care and respect from others.
2. Ramp up resilience.
Healthy habits help teens build a tool-kit of coping skills to deal with stress and regulate their emotions. Each tool increases their resilience, or the ability to bounce back from and overcome adversity. According to researcher and author Dr. Brené Brown, the five most common factors of resilient people include:
- They are resourceful and have skills to solve problems.
- They are more likely to seek help.
- They believe that they can do something to manage their feelings and cope.
- They have social support.
- They are connected with others.
3. Define their \”Framily.\”
According to the Urban Dictionary, a framily includes “friends or blood relatives to whom we would actually choose to be related, because the relationship is mutually respectful, close, supporting and affectionate.” Defining their framily helps teens reframe their support systems to include all the important relationships that don’t necessarily fit into traditional roles, like their mom’s best friend who’s more like an aunt, or a youth group leader or neighbor who always looks out for them. Take some time with your teen to map out your own framily members and highlight any relationships you want to strengthen. Let those people know that they’re a part of your teen’s tribe, then plan ways that you and your teen can deepen the most important connections.
4. Get serious about radical support.
At Lucero, we define framily as any combination of youth and adults who want to radically support each other. Who are the people your teen can rely on for radical support? Those are the relationships that belong in your teen’s inner circle. Radical support means different things to different people, but some key questions your teen can ask themselves include:
- Can I be my most authentic self around this person? Do they like and love me even when I’m feeling sad, silly, vulnerable, etc.?
- Can I trust this person? Do I know they will respect my boundaries and keep what I say confidential? Are they honest with me?
- Would I feel comfortable asking this person for help or support?
- How does this person handle conflict when it comes up? Can we get along even when we disagree?
- Is our relationship equally important to both of us?
To help your teen learn connection-boosting healthy habits like these, download Lucero. It’s a gamified wellness app that builds emotional regulation skills and self-care habits in just a few minutes a day. Lucero is the most fun and engaging way for teens to gain healthy habits with bite-sized content co-created by experts and tweens and teens themselves.