How to Show Young People You Care
Our data provides a number of insights from young people on mental health as well as practical ways any adult can support young people’s mental health. Two of those core supports are being present and showing care.
Back in 2019, we set out to learn more about the alarming loneliness epidemic and its effects on young people’s lives. In surveying 1,000 young people and interviewing 35 more, we wanted to explore the relationship between the increasing experience of loneliness and the decreasing experience of belonging among young people. The young people we surveyed had high rates of loneliness, social isolation, and stress. Many indicated they had few social interactions and few people they could turn to in times of trouble or even just to talk.
Throughout the interview process, we kept asking questions about where young people felt a sense of belonging. But every time we pushed young people to tell us where, they pushed back. Over and over, they would tell us who—who created a sense of belonging for them. It turns out, the place or setting didn’t matter nearly as much as the relationships these young people had with family, friends, and caring adults.
This particular study, which would become our report titled Belonging: Reconnecting America’s Loneliest Generation, led us to a simple and powerful observation: connecting young people to more trusted adults in what we call “belonging relationships” is one antidote to their rampant loneliness and social isolation. A belonging relationship is one that cultivates the state or feeling of belongingness in another.
Our data confirmed just how important trusted adults are in the lives of young people. While this may have always been the case, the shifting of social life away from regular meaningful interaction with trusted adults makes it an even more urgent task.
The new social reality demands a renewed dedication to building relationships between young people and trusted adults. It may feel like you are doing nothing when you sit and listen, honestly and without judgment, to a young person. You’re not doing nothing. You are doing the very thing necessary to reduce their experience of social isolation, loneliness, and stress.
Check out these You Tube videos to understand more ways to support the young people in your life: