Relationships in these Extraordinary Times
This was a piece I wrote back in March 2021 to reflect on how important our relationships and those connections we have with others have become during a global health crisis. I'll follow up on this soon as we move towards another academic year and re-emerge from hibernation!
What a Year
The month of March marks the 1-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic bringing society to a screeching shalt. It brought about significant changes in we go about our lives, especially with our social connections. The relationships we have with others are central to the human experience and part of our identities. So, public health recommendations such as social (physical) distancing to slow the spread of the virus, forced us to adapt and find new ways to connect with others while doing our part for the community.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) emphasizes that the quality of our social relationships is essential. Along those lines, two important concepts to remind ourselves are that the relationships we have with our parents, siblings, friends, and partners are built on trust and security. We know that we can trust these individuals to be there for us when we need them to, and we are also aware that the relationship itself will persevere and last a long time (Furman & Buhrmester, 1985; Rotenberg, 2010). Having a relationship with someone with whom you can trust and develop a secure relationship is important for our well-being. For example, adolescents who reported greater security with their friends showed lower levels of anxiety (Wood et al., 2017) and friendship satisfaction (Persram et al., 2021). Moreover, youth who reported lower levels of trust with their parent had greater anxiety (Ebbert et al., 2019). In the case of siblings, adolescents who perceived they had a trusting relationship with their siblings reported greater self-esteem (Noel et al., 2018).
The pandemic has affected us in so many similar and different ways. However, our family, friends, and partners are still there to provide us with the support to know that we will be okay and get through this together. The message is the same regardless of whether we live with others or not. If living with others, conflicts are a normal part of relationships. It can be pretty easy to get on each other’s nerves when you spend the entire time with your family, for example. Make sure that you make time for yourself. It’s okay to disconnect from others and have some time set out just for you. That can also be helpful to reduce and minimize conflicts or other issues from getting worse. Living alone can be especially difficult, but it is so important to make sure to connect with others to reduce the feelings of loneliness that are only natural.
Relationships high in security and trust help us in so many different ways. Keeping in regular contact with others is so important for us because it nourishes our need for connectedness. It also shows the endurance and perseverance of those relationships, even in extraordinary times. Social (physical) distancing does not mean that we cannot still connect with our family and friends. It means that we have to be a bit more flexible in how we do so until we can see each other again. Until then, we are all in this together!
Ebbert, A. M., Infurna, F. J., & Luthar, S. S. (2019). Mapping developmental changes in
perceived adolescent relationship quality throughout middle school and high school. Development and Psychopathology, 31(4), 1541-1556. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579418001219
Furman, W. and Buhrmester, D. (1985). “Network of Relationships Inventory”. In J.
Touliatos, B.F. Perlmutter, & M.A. Straus (Eds.), Handbook of family measurement techniques, (vol. 3), 61–73. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Noel, V. A., Francis, S. E., & Tilley, M. A. (2018). An adapted measure of sibling attachment:
Factor structure and internal consistency of the sibling attachment inventory in youth.
Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 49, 217-224.
Persram, R. J., Schwartzman, E., & Bukowski, W. M. (2021). The concurrent association
between friendship security and friendship satisfaction is moderated by experience within the family context. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 67(1), 56-75. https://doi.org/10.13110/merrpalmquar1982.67.1.0056
Rotenberg, K. J. (2010). The conceptualization of interpersonal trust: A basis, domain, and
target framework. In K. Rotenberg (Ed.), Interpersonal trust during childhood and adolescence (pp. 2-27). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Wood, M. A., Bukowski, W. M., & Santo, J. B. (2017). Friendship security, but not friendship
intimacy, moderates the stability of anxiety during preadolescence. Journal of Clinical
Child & Adolescent Psychology, 46(6), 798-809. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2015.1094742