The Vital Role of Freely Given Relationships in the Health of Our Loved Ones
A s social creatures, our survival and well-being are heavily reliant on connection. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, isolation and disconnection can take a toll on our mental health. Unfortunately, for many of our loved ones with developmental disabilities, isolation is the norm. Research indicates that they only have an average of 25 relationships, while the average person has 150. This means they receive only 1/6th the social connection compared to the average person, which can have major health and well-being impacts. In fact, one study equates loneliness to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day in terms of the negative health consequences.
We must take proactive steps to help our loved ones build relationships and increase social interaction. Here are two actionable ideas:
1.Create opportunities for interaction: Think of a few ordinary ways your loved one can interact with people they know. It could be as simple as coming over for Sunday dinner, celebrating a birthday, or having a board game night. By intentionally creating one social interaction each month, you can give your loved one a chance to form new relationships and deepen existing ones.
2.Connect with social connectors: Reach out to people who know everyone and are always organizing social gatherings. These individuals, such as a church pastor or a community organizer, can introduce your loved one to new people and help them build relationships.
By consistently implementing these ideas, you can help your loved one form new relationships and improve their quality of life.
For information on building relationships for people with developmental disabilities, visit www.empoweringability.org.