Some Australian researchers spent time combing carefully through studies detailing the effects of positive social interactions at work. They found overwhelming evidence that people’s health is better when they are socially successful at their jobs.
I got to thinking about the teenagers I work with in the counseling office. I wondered how this article relates to them. Might they be healthier overall if they are doing well socially? I then wondered whether they are more likely to succeed in school. I thought to myself they must certainly attend more school days than their peers who struggle socially. The kids who like to see their friends would be reluctant to miss a school day because they wouldn’t want to miss out on social interactions.
As I give my answer to this question, keep in mind I am not in a position to conduct a research study. I don’t have the time or the resources. I have a practice to run with three amazing therapists where we are blessed enough to help hurting teens and families. So, my observations on these ideas are solely based off the time I’ve spent doing counseling with adolescents for the past 9 years.
The teenagers I’ve worked with who are socially successful do enjoy school more. They don’t necessarily enjoy academics more than their peers. They aren’t more likely to study and don’t always earn higher grades. What they enjoy is actually being at school. They really like PE classes, lunch and passing periods. They like to socialize. They like group projects more than solo projects. They enjoy the school spirit activities. They attend dances, football games and play on sports teams. Overall they do seem happier.
I can’t really comment on whether these teenagers seem healthier. I know their psychological health tends to be better. They have a better support system when things go wrong. They have more encouraging people in their lives. They are affirmed just for being themselves on a regular basis. They get enough physical affection to feel loved. These things should contribute to more physical health, but I’ve never especially noticed one way or the other. One possibility for this is that as a whole adolescents don’t have a great number of health problems yet. Another possibility is that my main focus is on their mental health.
In any case, I wanted to share a little bit about the article because I thought it was really interesting. I also wanted to put down some thoughts on how this is relevant to you raising a teenager. One of the most important take-aways is to realize that your teenager’s ability to socialize well is as much (if not more) of an indicator of your child’s future happiness than their ability to do well academically.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT
PS- Here is the link to the article: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_161331.html