Last Updated on July 20, 2020 by Diane Hoffmaster
This post about building positive relationships is made possible with support from the American Academy of Pediatrics through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All opinions are my own.
Positive relationships are vital to your long term mental health, whether you are an adult, teen, or child. However, relationship building isn’t easy. It takes time, commitment, trust, and a strong appreciation of one another. And when you find that one person (or two or three) that supports you unconditionally, remember to say thank you. Because strong relationships, although not always easy to maintain, are vital when it comes to long-term mental health. This is especially true in times of emotional or physical upheaval.
To learn more about why you need to find your three strong relationships (or help foster those strong relationships for your children), check out my post on the importance of community support. Because building strong relationships, whether they are family members, friends, neighbors, or community members, makes a big difference in the prevention of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
The Importance of Positive Relationships
Being alone is no fun. Not only is staying in on a Friday night boring, but when times are stressful, having no one to turn to is hard.
Being alone can mean having no one in your corner cheering you on when you struggle with a lack of self-confidence.
It means more than just going to happy hour by yourself. Being alone means having no positive relationships to rely on when an unexpected crisis occurs. Whether that is the death of a loved one or a global pandemic.
And if being alone as an adult is tough, can you imagine what it is like being alone as a child? Or as a teen who has significant angst about everything from their body to their future life goals?
The opposite of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is positive childhood experiences (PCEs). The people who created PCEs in my childhood are still important to me. When I look back at the adults in my life when *I* was a teen, I wish I had said THANK YOU for the support they gave me.
Don’t Wait to Say Thanks
Growing up, I had a very close relationship with my parents. I was amazingly lucky when I think about how many of my friends’ parents were divorced, busy, or just uninterested in their kids' lives.
As I was growing up, my parents didn’t necessarily DO anything amazing, but they were always there for me. My mom was there to lead my Brownie Troop, pack my lunch, and listen to me talk about my day. My dad was a quiet but solid presence in my life, whether it was watching M.A.S.H. reruns or working on a puzzle.
Their interest in my life and support of my choices gave me the emotional safety net I needed as a teen. I wasn’t afraid to take challenging classes in high school or leave the state for college because I knew they had my back.
I knew that if I failed, they would be there to catch me. And then encourage me to try again. Building positive relationships with others was a little bit easier because of the foundation they provided.
It’s also important to realize that healthy relationships can come from outside the family. In high school, I had an advanced Biology teacher who I credit with encouraging me to get my degree in Microbiology. I was one of three girls in my upper-level biology class. If you think there is a lack of females in STEM courses today, you should have seen it 30 years ago. But, that didn’t matter to him at all.
He saw a passion in me for the subject and encouraged me to learn more, dig deeper, and ask more questions. He was part of my “three,” and I am so appreciative of that. Sadly, I cannot say thank you to him today, but, I like to think that nurturing my children's love of science is my thank you to him for his constant encouragement.
How To Say Thank-you When Words Aren’t Enough
Don’t wait to say thank you to those people who provided stability to you as a child and created positive childhood experiences. How do you say thanks and show appreciation to the important people in your life?
Sometimes, words just don’t seem to be enough, right? There is so much work that goes into positive relationships that saying thank you is vital. Here are a few ways to say thank you to the people in YOUR life who made a difference to you growing up.
Creative ways to say thanks:
Give a gift: It doesn’t need to be something super expensive. Say thanks with a gift card to their favorite restaurant or tickets to a sports game. Maybe make it an experience that the two of you can spend time doing together.
Write a heartfelt letter: Sometimes words are hard, especially when that special person is staring you right in the face. Say thank you to someone by writing those intense emotions down on paper.
Do a good deed: Maybe they need their lawn mowed or their grocery shopping done. Or, maybe they need a ride to a doctor’s appointment or someone to pick up their prescription. They were there for you, be there for them when they need support, too.
Pay it forward: Honestly, the best way to say thanks is to return the good deed they did for you. Pay their kindness and generosity forward. Be a sounding board, a role model, a comforting shoulder to cry on, and a strong safety net to someone else in need—whether it is your child, a student you teach, or a child you mentor through a local community center.
Build healthy relationships with other kids and teens in your life. So that when they encounter an emotional hurdle or traumatic event, it doesn't lead to a lifetime of emotional or physical stress. Because one thing we know for sure, adverse childhood events can lead to lifelong problems without the kind of mental and physical support that a strong relationship can help prevent.
Create Positive Relationships with Your Teen
As a mom, I believe that parents need to put 110% of themselves into creating honest and open relationships with their kids. It is NOT easy, especially as they get to those oh-so-enjoyable teen years.
While I know my kids don’t come to me with everything they are thinking and feeling, I do know that they have come to me with some pretty big things. And while I think it is second nature to wonder if you are doing a good job as a parent, just letting your teenager know that you are there for them—no matter WHAT—is the very first step you need to take.
Because, unfortunately, there may be some seriously tough times ahead for them. But, giving them a stable, nurturing environment to grow up in lets them know that no matter what happens, they are NOT alone.
Because being alone is hard. And no one should be left without a support system, especially your child.
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.