Growing up, one of the most important things we learn to do is connect with others. At a young age, we must branch off of our parents to meet new people and develop connections with them. Each of these connections may seem small, but as time goes by, they become very important to our mental and emotional health.

Connections with others, no matter how early in life they occur, eventually become friendships. We need these early friendships to learn how to communicate with others, and get a sense of who we are to them. After learning how we connect with others, we develop a greater sense of who we are to ourselves, and this is vital to human development. Seeing how we fit into the lives of the people we care most about is the first way that we figure out who are, and who we want to become.

Think about the last conversation you had with someone. You either left it feeling connected to them through it, or you felt the two of you were on a different page. If it went well, you probably left feeling secure about yourself, and your place in the person’s life. However, if you were unable to connect with them, you may have left feeling self conscious and upset about your relationship with them, or even upset with yourself. It is easy to see that the feelings we have about our connections with others have a great effect on our perception of ourselves.

The first moments we evaluate ourselves in start with childsplay, says an article by the Chicago Tribune. “Recent research has found that the friendships between children as young as toddlers are far more complex and stable than earlier developmental psychologists had thought possible. The ways in which children choose and play with their friends offer a singular view of their emotional needs.” As children, even though we don’t reflect on our relationships much, we learn how they make us feel about connecting with others. Our interactions make us feel fulfilled and connected with others, so we look for more of them.

As we grow older, it is more common to think deeply about our relationships with others, even though we have been doing it from the first connection we made. Whether we thought about it at a young age or not, good conversations made us feel happy, and bad ones made us feel sad. A good day was made of happy moments, shared with others, and good days made us feel content.

In addition, being vulnerable to other people through real friendships teaches us how to be vulnerable. In friendships, we work on issues by opening ourselves up to others and revealing our emotions. We get in the practice of being honest with others and ourselves. This helps us grow emotionally to become more self aware and reflective, which in turn makes us happier.

It is important to have enough connections with others to come to this realization personally. Developing skills to be aware of our emotions is vital to our overall happiness, and even when we are alone, we should spend time evaluating how our interactions make us feel about ourselves. To determine what will make us happy, we need to be in touch with ourselves, and this is a skill that can only be mastered through practice that we find in human interaction.

CC BY-SA 4.0 How do Early Friendships Affect our Development? by Lindsay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Youth Voices is organized by teachers at local sites of the National Writing Project and in partnership with Educator Innovator.

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