Building Connections within Family and Peer Groups

September 30, 2020

Under our current state of affairs, building and maintaining connections is so vital for our mental health. For family members who may not be able to visit due to underlying health reasons, for kids who miss seeing their friends and who also thrive on interacting with their peers. Making connections is basic human need for all of us. Even our introverted friends! Our team of experts have put together some creative suggestions on how to embrace our new norm and to maintain those important connections.


Kasey Cain, Licensed Professional Counselor 

Human beings are wired for social connection. Even the most introverted people crave connections. The continued need to social distance has made it challenging to find meaningful ways to connect with others, feel supported, and find comfort in social interaction. Although this is a global pandemic, not everyone is experiencing it in the same way and everyone has different levels of comfort with re-engaging with others.

To find out how people were coping I decided to ask (via email, video conference, text, or phone call) “How are you finding ways to connect?” The following strategies appeared over and over again when parents, grandparents, children, and teachers replied to my question. Bring back the phone call – a lot of people these days prefer to text, however, respondents said the act of hearing someone’s voice made them feel closer. Bring back pen pals – write letters to a relative or friend. There is still something exciting about getting a letter in the mail. Use technology to your advantage – make video calls so you can see one another. So many services offer ways to connect online as well.

Netflix has watch parties where you and friends watch the same movie and can chat and comment throughout. You can do a lot of classes and activities online with family and friends as well – cooking, painting, dance, escape rooms etc. Chalk the Walk – put positive messages around the neighborhood when you go on a walk or visit a friend’s house and leave a special message on the driveway. Find ways to give – It’s the “Have You Filled A Bucket” principle that doing good for others does good for you too.

Providing for those in need, supporting the community, and protecting the environment provides a broader connection that is beneficial to your mental health and wellness. These are just a few suggestions from my friends, family, and colleagues. I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas!

Amanda Beyland, Therapist for The Wise Family

With (virtual) school back in session, many students are missing out on the connection they had with their peers during the school day. There isn’t the opportunity to eat lunch together, talk with your table mates in the classroom, or even wave to a friend in the hallway.

I’ve been hearing a lot from the families I work with about the struggle of being able to see their friends but not having the opportunity to hang out and chat. Brainstorm with your children on some fun ways they might be able to spend time with their classmates. Set up a weekly online Uno tournament, find a pen pal, or schedule some after-school virtual play dates. Some may enjoy having virtual homework or study dates with their classmates or starting a book club about something they have learned about in class. Even though there is a need for physical distance it doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to stay social!

Tati Hernandez, Licensed Professional Counselor 

A critical component of the developmental period during adolescence is social connection. For most teens, the restrictions that have been put in place (for important public health measures) due to COVID-19 have presented themselves as a disruption to the social aspect of their developmental process. This may be especially detrimental for LGBTQ+ teens, particularly those that don’t feel ready to come out yet or don’t feel safe coming out to their families at all, as it leads to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness.

With that being said, the formation and maintenance of social connection has become more important than ever. So, in this time of physical distancing and remote learning, how can any adult in the life of an LGBTQ+ teen help with fostering a sense of connection during these challenging times?

Here are three things that you can start with:
  1. Be a visible ally (because teens are always paying attention, even when you think they aren’t). Some examples include but are not limited to: offering your pronouns during an introduction or in your email signature, using inclusive language, placing any LGBTQ+ affirming material of your choosing in their line of vision (yes, this includes virtual platforms too), and calling out discriminatory behavior.
  2. Provide them with an opportunity and a safe space to talk, and really listen to what they have to say. After all, teens still need social support from the adults in their lives and, contrary to popular belief, they actually do like talking to adults (when they feel supported).
  3. Find and share accessible resources. By providing resources, you are helping them with expanding their opportunity to be able to connect with peers in safe and affirming spaces. Resources can include information about an LGBTQ+ inclusive school club, a community organization, a support group, an online forum, a local coffee shop, a provider in the community, etc. Plenty of places are getting creative with their accessibility during these unprecedented times, so be sure to ask if virtual meetings are being held or how they’re implementing social distancing practices.

Dorri C. Scott, MSW, Resident Family Therapist and Parent Coach

Have you felt Socially DISCONNECTED? Is the pandemic causing you angst?

Join the club.

The isolation and social distancing has us all feeling “a certain kind of kind of way.” During this unprecedented time (which will pass) it is important to maintain a sense of wellbeing and stay connected. As we approach fall, here are a few things you and your family can do to CONNECT. And have fun, too:

  1. Plan regular happy hours for you, your family and friends. Talking to family and friends just for fun is a positive way to connect. The benefit is, you don’t have to leave the house in snow, rain or sleet.
  2. Social gaming on your phone when bored is good for the brain. Grab a friend and play scrabble or similar word search games. Other popular games include: Jack Box games and Minecraft.
  3. Get moving online. Take an online exercise course and work it out! The best benefit of all – weight loss and tone perfection.
  4. Watch a free concert online. Musicals, concerts, programs and events online are a safe way to be entertained. Whether you like rock, hip hop, classical, opera or programs for children, the options are plentiful.

Search. Find. Enjoy Be happy. Stay connected!

Rebecca Staines, Licensed Professional Counselor

In the new age of living in a Pandemic, the word connection has taken on a whole different meaning. I take more walks with my family than ever before, and with this new habit has brought new connections. There is more time to stop and smell the roses with my two year old son, or talk to the sweet elderly couple sitting on their porch who miss seeing their grandkids. Before the Pandemic, I didn’t know the names of most of my neighbors, and now I have an active list going with my husband of all the people we chat with along our path.

In addition to these new connections, the Pandemic has also highlighted the importance of maintaining old friendships. I used to meet in person once a month for book club, and now it has switched to meeting virtually on Zoom. Although my book club was in existence before the Pandemic, forming a group in our current setting could be a great way to build and foster connection. This group can be with family, friends, or even fellow parents who you have not met in person.

Do not be afraid to make the plunge and meet new people in ways you may not have expected! Also remember the importance of reaching out when you need it!

Until next time, Be Wise!