As a homeschool mom I am constantly asked the question “but how will you socialize them?” as if teaching my children prosocial behavior is a course I should enroll them in. On the contrary, the behaviors I want them to know, to learn, and to live, are a lifestyle–and one I have to model for them.
Prosocial, Antisocial, and Asocial
My generation is filled with 30-somethings who pride themselves on being “antisocial.” I’ve recently learned that what I thought I knew about socialization has been wrong all along. They call themselves antisocial because we prefer to spend time away from crowds, stay in our homes, and are distrusting of others. In reality, these people who avoid interaction and who may become isolated because of it are considered asocial. This is the model that the social media generation grows up with. Our children and the children we’re ministering to–Generation Z and Generation Alpha-sees an entire generation of adults that don’t wanna be around people and don’t like people! How do they know for sure if we even like them?
I’ve left one definition out, though. Social psychology identifies prosocial, in which connections and relationships are positive ones; asocial, in which connections are few and relationships are guarded; and antisocial, in which connections and relationships are nothing but a means for personal gain. It’s not enough that we socialize our children, but also that we teach them healthy social behaviors.
Making Positive Connections
In real life, we should strive to make positive connections at every turn so that the generation we’re raising makes positive connections with every click. Every social media platform should be a platform for positivity. This doesn’t mean we have to talk about sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns all the time. It means that our voices are used for good, not bad.
Our profiles are used for good, not bad. Our keyboard strokes, TikTok dances, social media challenges, and interaction on all platforms (in real life and online) should be for the good. You cannot drink from the murky waters of the world and still lead others to the Water of Life. You cannot eat of sin and flesh and still share the Bread of Life. You cannot plant seeds of pain and then harvest Fruits of the Spirit.
So when looking at raising children who are raised on social media (whether you allow them online or not–they will be eventually), you have to look at yourself. When teaching the children in your ministry to be good “citizens” it doesn’t only mean being a responsible voter and aware of social justice and environmental care. Being a good citizen and being a good person means interacting well. It’s okay if your kid isn’t a social butterfly. It’s even okay if your child is a little socially awkward. What’s important is how children make social connections and what they do with them.
Tips for Well-Connected Kids
As a parent, caregiver, or minister to children, you are creating a base for children in your life on which to build well-connected relationships for a lifetime. Working in children’s ministries, you may work with children that have never seen a healthy model of social relationships. They may have parents who have antisocial behavior disorders or who are asocial and reclusive. No matter who you are to these kids, or how you interact with them, you can model the best social behaviors for them just by being you and by letting Jesus shine through your life.
- Model prosocial behavior online and in real life. Make healthy connections and use relationships to the benefit of both parties. Let your children know you work on good relationships daily.
- Allow kids the opportunity to make connections and form relationships. Encourage friendships.
- Pray for your kids’ friendships and interactions with others. Ask God to surround your family with good people (not necessarily only those who are “Christians”).
- Cultivate autonomy in your children by trusting them to interact on safe online platforms.
- Take time once per month for correspondence. Send notes to friends, write cards for the sick, make thank you cards after birthdays and holidays.
- Create care packages for friends and hand-deliver them.
- Show your kids how to evaluate love languages and communication styles to help relationships thrive for the long-term.
- Visit others. Invite people into your home and visit other people on a regular basis.
Click here for more information about “Raising Well-Connected Kids.”