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Can teens form healthy relationships online?

by | Oct 27, 2020 | Parenting | 0 comments

Human beings are made for relationships.

We all, including teens, thrive when our relationships are plentiful and strong and suffer when we lack meaningful connections.

Teens are especially wired for connection. Friendships are an integral part of their personal development and support system. For quite some time, devices have been a lifeline to friends and a gateway to social media sites which continue to be gathering places for teens. In many ways, connecting online is second nature for young people.

Current reality changes the way we connect.

But with the onset of COVID, teens (and adults) have been thrust into new depths of online connection. Many parents were already concerned about screen time and now, it’s even harder to manage. The boundaries between socializing, learning, and being entertained are no longer so easily defined. With so much interaction happening through a screen, many parents wonder and worry about their teens’ ability to form healthy, real connections.

Understanding healthy relationships.

According to Angela Duckworth, a leading researcher in the area of grit and resilience:

“Healthy interpersonal relationships share three essential elements: The first is understanding—seeing the other person for who they are, including their desires, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. The second is validation—valuing the other person’s perspective, even if it differs from your own. And the third is caring—expressing authentic affection, warmth, and concern.”

Teens show the ability to have meaningful relationships online.

I’ll admit, when I took my coaching practice entirely online, I was concerned. Although half of my clients were already meeting me virtually, I worried that those who were not would feel something was missing. What I realized was that despite there being a screen between us, we can still focus eye-to-eye and listen heart-to-heart.

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My clients feel as comfortable as ever opening up about the highs and lows of their week. (Some are even more comfortable as they get to connect with me from their cozy bedroom or a quiet space in their backyard.) They easily share their worries, fears, and questions. They get to experience feeling understood, validated, and cared for. It is surprising and somewhat magical to connect in this way.

See the value in online interaction.

While many Zoom Classrooms are proving to offer little in the way of the three essential elements—understanding, validation, and caring—personal interactions have the ability to engage teens and allow them to feel seen, heard, and understood. There will never be a replacement for real-life interaction but there is value to connecting face-to-face and having meaningful conversations, even if it’s through a screen.

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