Even after the World Health Organization replaced the term social distancing with physical distancing, people are still feeling the effects of social distancing.
Fear, lack of trust in people, thinking of others as a potential threat, and narrowing the social circle of interaction are the key ingredients of today’s social environment and, at the same time, are the main factors that inhibit socialisation.
Family is the safest and most favourable developmental environment for a child.
In terms of socialisation, children and the elderly are the most affected age groups. Even family interactions have been limited in order to protect the medically vulnerable or the elderly. Children were distanced not only from the school environment, but also, more often than not, from their grandparents or even from their parents who had to work in risky areas.
In such a context, the theoretical approaches to the concept of children’s socialisation, both within the family and outside of it, are imperative. Understanding the concept of socialisation, an awareness of its importance, and learning the methods that facilitate it are the prerequisites of an effective education.
Joel Salinas, a behavioural neurology and neuropsychiatry specialist, considers socialisation to be as important as taking medication, adopting a healthy diet, or exercising. People who have many friends are healthier and live longer than people who live isolated lives. Moreover, their quality of life is better.
People who have many friends are healthier and live longer than people who live isolated lives.
Social relationships improve mood, reduce stress, and reduce the risk of illness. The opposite—lack of friendships and social interactions—is a risk factor for depression, neurosis, autoimmune disorders, endocrine dysfunction, and more. Even the risk of a myocardial infarction (MI) or stroke (CVA) is associated with social isolation.
Generally speaking, socialisation refers to the transformation of an asocial being—by inculcating ways of feeling, thinking, and acting—into a social being. The essence of this process is the assimilation of social experience through the development of personality, beliefs, views of the world and life, motivations, and social intelligence. All this has the purpose of preparing the child for social interactions. Socialisation is a bilateral approach that takes place through the interaction between the adult, who offers the social experience, and the child. In turn, in the development process, the child acquires a social system more and more independently. At the same time, a child’s socialisation takes place following social exchanges with their peers, animals, the media, school, churches, and so on.
The process of socialisation is not limited to leaving fingerprints on a blank slate, but starts from the hereditary imprint of the child, which is then constantly shaped by learning.
Language acquisition is the first major stage of a child’s development and the basic tool she uses to organise her thinking and acquire knowledge and skills. The effectiveness of communication is directly proportional to her ability to socialise. That is why it is vital that parents communicate frequently, both with each other as parents, and with the child directly. By reading stories, explaining life situations, stating their moods, or deciphering behaviours and feelings, parents contribute to the development of their child’s language and, at the same time, the development of his or her communication skills.
Genetics is only a part of the raw material used to shape a child’s personality. The same traits and characteristics can be shaped differently, resulting in different personalities. Following the child’s interactions with personal, cultural, and environmental factors, the process of socialisation influences the development of personality, which is dynamic and always evolving. The fact that each child has a unique genetic background and a unique personal experience means that diversity is shaped by the integration of experiences, norms, and values in relation to the experience of the past. Thus, the child’s personality is not a simple accumulation of contents and values, because they are uniquely integrated by each child.
Socialisation within the family
Family is the most important and impactful agent of children’s socialisation. In infancy, parents define the foundations of their children’s beliefs, conceptions and attitudes. As children grow up, the authority and role of parents is shared with other important socialisation agents such as religion, school, friends, and the media.
The consensus among sociologists is that primary socialisation is the most important factor in the development of the human being. In the first few years of life, a person’s position in society is established and the internalisation of values and beliefs, as well as the learning of patterns of communication and interaction within the external environment, take place. Thus, the family becomes the first community that influences the processes of all subsequent formative acquisitions. Moreover, the family is the safest and most favourable developmental environment for the child. A climate of affection, acceptance, and protection offers the child a favourable environment for healthy socialisation.
In ideal conditions, the longer the socialisation within the family, the greater the chances that a child will become well-equipped to cope with the continuous changes they will be subjected to in their environment.
These ideal conditions refer to a range of features from positive emotional climate, the consistent quality time spent with the child, the material resources necessary for the family’s existence, to the parents’ ability to be the child’s role models. For this reason, socialisation does not depend on committing to and following certain rules, but rather, the application of certain principles. The child needs to learn to communicate, as well as have a positive emotional environment, acceptance, love, appreciation, encouragement, and protection. These form the foundation on which a child perceives his identity in relation to others, and then becomes able to adapt, integrate, self-develop, and finally, self-actualize. This cyclical approach describes the process of socialisation.
Regardless of their moral, spiritual, emotional, and material capacities, parents have a duty to assist the child throughout their mental and emotional development. The category of ‘parent’ includes biological parents, adoptive parents, legal guardians or anyone who assumes the care of the child and who, at the same time, carries selfless love for them.
Family socialisation guide
1. Read to your children every day.
Socialisation of children through the partnership of parental-educational institutions
The teacher and the professor fall into the category of first degree socialisation. Within the institutional framework, there is a transfer of responsibility and parental identity from parent to educator. The latter becomes a substitute for the mother, so, depending on the consensus of the two social environments, the child’s development can either be harmonious or not.
However, the role of the parent remains decisive. In addition to managing family interactions while the child is at home, parents have a duty to choose the institutional environment in which their child will be educated and, at the same time, to maintain an open and continuous relationship with the educators. Depending on the information provided by the parent, the educator should adapt their method of working with the child, and depending on the information from the educator, parents can adjust the methods and objectives they have in mind for the development of their child.
Socialisation guide within the family-educational institutions
1. Look for an educator who loves children and understands them.
Socialisation of children through the parent-church partnership
This type of partnership is a strong socialising agent, because through it, the child learns the difference between right and wrong. At the same time, the church environment becomes a community where all the other socialising influences can be found. The church aims to offer their followers an extended family. Through moral-religious activities with children, the church becomes a school, and through the presence of the children at church activities, the church offers the child a group where they can socialise between equals. This facilitates self-knowledge, the development of communication skills, and the development of the ability to relate.
Regardless of the agents that contribute to the socialisation of children, parents are primarily responsible for their development. Though this responsibility is a partnership, the parent is the decisive factor that assists the child in all the other partnerships necessary for their development.
Ștefăniţă Poenariu is the president of the Holistic Christian Education Association, which operates Transylvania International School.