The Holiday Season is a Reminder of the Importance of Social Support

Families all over Memphis will soon be inviting people to join them for special meals, for parties and celebrations, and for gift-giving. It’s the season when nothing seems more important than friends and families engaging in holiday and cultural traditions that remind us of who we are, how we belong, and what we mean to each other.

Helping a person in need boosts their support system as well as your own! Tweet this!

For children, it’s a chance to bask in the love of a nurturing family and to understand their place in it. For adults, it’s a chance to make a statement about the people and values that matter most to them. And for seniors, it’s a time to reflect on how their parenting is reflected through the generations of their families.

We All Need Support

In truth, during the holidays, it’s about more than spending time with loved ones. We are in fact strengthening our support systems. Every parent needs one, because these are the people we turn to for help, advice, support, and encouragement.

Child-rearing has always been challenging, but with so much information available about the lifelong impacts of parenting, dedicated parents often feel inadequate and question whether they are parenting well enough. Meanwhile, they are dealing with stress at work and in other areas of life. Often this stress is brought home and affects the life of the family.

There’s no substitute in these times of stress than a support system, and that’s why it’s crucial that children’s social and emotional development prepares them to create positive relationships with others, to handle emotions, and to have empathy. Social competence helps children when they enter and progress through school, but it doesn’t stop there: it also helps them for the rest of their lives.

Building a Foundation for a Lifetime

In other words, the skills that we learn in childhood – self-control, self-confidence, curiosity, motivation – become the underpinnings for our lives as adults. They become the foundation that allows us to build and be part of support systems.

For this reason, we should all support programs in neighborhoods, faith-based institutions, and the broader community that gives people a place to plug in and find support and a helping hand in times of need. That’s especially true for families living in poverty, because they are facing levels of stress unknown to most of us. Other factors like residential instability also make it harder to create and maintain support systems.

Ultimately, programs that increase social support benefit all of us who live in this community, because the children of nurturing parents are more likely to become the glue that holds together the social fabric of Memphis. Children who don’t develop strong social and emotional skills are likely to grow up to be ineffective parents who lack support systems that can help them deal with the stresses in their lives.

Nurturing Parents Are the Best Gifts

In a recent meeting at a leadership group, people were asked to remember the best gift they ever received during the holidays. Everyone in the room had a story about that one special gift and how excited they were to get it. Then, they were asked to describe the setting of that day and, almost to a person, the story was about parents who played with them that day or grandparents who came over to join in the festivities.

What was remarkable in the retelling was how each person for a few minutes traveled back to that exact time in their lives. Such is the influence and impact of support systems in our lives.

We have said that effective parents should be sensitive and responsive with their children. But we should also strive to apply these qualities to our adult relationships. Recognizing that a friend, peer, or coworker is in distress is an opportunity to provide social support. Helping someone in need strengthens that person’s support system as well as our own.

In this way, social and emotional development is the gift that keeps on giving.