Over here in the UK, we find ourselves in a national lockdown again, with days consisting of online classes, Netflix, and Zoom quizzes.
Although keeping in touch with those we care about is a lot easier in the digital age we live in, being physically separated from the ones we care about is by no means easy. And with schools closed, many students are struggling to maintain healthy relationships with their friends and peers.
For adolescents especially, relationships are such an important part of developing a personal identity and social skills. It’s essential students find ways to stay in contact. So, for the students who are struggling with isolation, we’ve explained three ways you can maintain those friendships.
But first, let’s take a closer look at why these relationships are so important…
Why are social relationships important?
Belongingness Theory states that human beings have an innate desire to belong. This desire is only intensified during adolescence as students try and navigate their personal and social identities. Social relationships play a huge part in this process as they can help:
- Develop a sense of belonging and self-esteem
- Provide an emotional support system
- Allow people to try new things and establish new hobbies
- Develop social skills such as empathy, active listening, and conflict resolution.
One study looked at the friendship support systems of 111,000 adolescents as they wanted to see whether having a stronger friendship network resulted in better mental health. The researchers found that people who had more friends reported fewer symptoms of depression, had more positive perceptions of their relationships and felt an increased sense of belonging. Another study looked at 108 Australian high school students and found that friendships mitigated the negative impact of stressful events on mental well-being.
What is the impact of Covid-19 on social relationships?
There is no doubt that efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, while necessary, have had an impact on student ’ well-being and education, as well as their social relationships with others. A social study conducted by University College London researchers found that one-fifth of Britons felt that their friendships had been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
In October 2020, the Ofsted report published noted that prolonged isolation due to school closures meant that student had diminished communication skills and a difficulty with maintaining their friendship groups.
Although students are able to interact with each other online, that many report feeling a lack of support and emotional connection with their friends without the ability to meet face-to-face. This has consequently led to many teenagers reporting increased mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
3 tips to maintain social relationships during school closures
Writing a letter is a thoughtful way of showing your friends that you care, as it takes time, consideration and effort. Moreover, for those who are particularly struggling with lockdown, writing down their thoughts helps them label their emotions, process what they’re feeling, and cope with them more effectively.
Writing letters to friends can also benefit students’ writing skills. With results from Ofsted inspections showing that Covid-19 has negatively impacted students’ writing proficiency and stamina, writing a letter to friends is a great way of making sure students are still utilising their written communication skills.
Have a weekly catch up
Take the time to schedule a virtual get together with friends at least once a week. Not only is it an effective way of making sure you feel connected on a regular basis but it also allows enough time to pass so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
However, like with all things, a routine can get boring after a while, so don’t be afraid to change things up. For example, have a watch party one week watching your favourite shows or movies together, a games night the next, and a homework catch up session the week after. The possibilities are endless and depend entirely on what your friends and you like to do together.
Start planning for the future
While national lockdowns are not over yet, you could still start planning what you and your friends are going to do once they are over and you can safely meet again. For example, if you or a friend has spent a birthday whilst in lockdown, discuss what you’re going to do to celebrate. Looking to the future is a great motivational tool as it can give you something to look forward to.
Maintaining relationships whilst in lockdown is no easy task. Not going to school can make students feel isolated, demotivated, and put the relationships they have with people to the test. Even when they try their best to stay in touch, it may feel like the friendship group is drifting apart. Hopefully these tips can help maintain and develop social groups and interactions both during and beyond this pandemic.