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From the East

QinQin Sun Stubis
is a writer, communications consultant, and mother of two living in the Maryland area.

Shaping the Social Health of Our Future Generations...

(Continued from Monthly Columns)

The inability to perform socially can cost us opportunities in life and affect the quality of our relationships.

In the world we live in, we are constantly surrounded by family and friends, supervisors, coworkers, neighbors, and fellow commuters. Everywhere we go, we have to negotiate and establish relationships with all kinds of people: young and old, witty and boring, smart and average, calm and hot-tempered.

Interestingly, it seems that some people are just born more socially capable than others: They are good at making connections with pretty much everyone, finding and keeping friends, or impressing a boss under whom they have just started to work.

Others never feel comfortable being very close to strangers. They prefer a larger personal space and keep themselves within a mysterious, opaque bubble away from the rest of the world. These people choose their friends carefully, slowly, and exclusively.

Though personality and habit affect how and when we relate to one another, our upbringing may impact us more when it comes to our ability to develop healthy and happy relationships.

From the very moment we come into this world and open our eyes, we begin to listen and observe – long before we start to toddle and babble and ask hundreds of "whys” to challenge the authority of adults.

Remember how a child's first smile elicits a positive reaction from his caretakers? It could be his earliest social exercise. Think about how a baby girl stands up and looks at you for encouragement before she takes her first step. Your reaction may be her first confidence lesson. Those earliest experiences create the foundation of our children's social skills.

As they grow, children often use adults as role models, observing how to interact, with what kind of language, and mimic us accordingly. Soon enough, they start to form their own "script" to strike up a dialogue or develop a relationship. Adults' passive comments and doling out praise and/or sharp
criticism constantly modify or reinforce what children believe to be the correct way to behave in a given situation.

As we grownups perform daily chores and interact with others, we may not always notice all the little eyes and ears around us, observing and listening to what we say and do, and learning about their environment through us. But, they are there. They are especially good at grasping labeling words like "smart," or "cute," "lazy," or "dumb," that are directed at them, making the first lexicological deposits in a lifetime's worth of savings in the piggy bank called "self."

Before we know it, a new generation of adults is minted, bearing our imprints and valuations, if not values. Some turn out to be confident and easy-going while others awkwardly maneuver their way through the social maze for the rest of their lives.

It is important for us adults to remember that how kids grow up, and what they see and hear will
affect their eventual view of themselves and the way they relate to others. If they consider social negativity as the norm of life, they will much more likely tolerate abusive relationships when they are grown up. In that sense, we are responsible for the social health and happiness of those who look up to us.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com.

Qin is a longtime columnist of ours who lives in Bethesda, MD..



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