What does community mean to you? In some ways, though society has more devices, tools, and ways of connecting than ever before, we can still feel isolated. Families are spread out across the country, neighborhoods are no longer regular gathering spaces, schools are enormous and ever-growing, and our schedules keep us busy from morning until night.
In psychology, a sense of community really means an “individual’s perception, understanding, attitudes, feelings, etc. about community and his or her relationship to it and to others' participation [source]." Community is a large part of how we define ourselves, and it helps guide our values, behaviors and choices. As teens are in the most crucial point of identity formation, a sense of community is critical. So how do we build community for our teens when we may struggle to find it ourselves? One part of membership in a community is that it gives one a sense of belonging and identity, things teens crave already! Now we need to give them access to it.
Community comes in many shapes and forms. The groups we offer at GirlTalk Therapy are one form of community. A place where girls can feel like they count and that they can be a stakeholder in their future. They feel the commonality amongst the girls and feel like they belong. Other forms of community-building may be found at church, through volunteer organizations, school clubs, team sports, or fine arts programs. We encourage all parents and caregivers to help guide their teen to a group in which they can have the four elements that create a true sense of community: membership, influence, fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection.
For another take on the importance of giving teens a sense of belonging, visit Understanding Teenagers.