When we speak about having support, we often think about networks of people who may be able to assist us in times of trouble. Social support means not only having close friends and relatives, but a broader network of people to turn to in a time of crisis. Having a wider group to embrace will give you an expanded focus and positive self-image as you take other people’s perspectives and ideas. You will notice that you are not the only one hitting a rut in life, and maybe your issue is not as traumatic as you first thought. Communicating with others enhances life and acts as a cushion when it throws you a curved ball.

Being part of a community such as a church, mosque or school will find you united with many different types of people who you would maybe not normally consider socialising with. There are always a multitude of personalities and attitudes, even within a formal structure and if you are dealing with a problem in your life you should attempt to value as many opinions on that issue as you can; digest and take away from them what you choose. Being intelligent enough to listen to other people’s solutions to an issue, will see you exploring many different possible conclusions before moving onto the stage of dealing with the problem and moving on in your life.

Support groups can offer very powerful psychological support. You may be bereaved and seek the support of a bereavement coach in a group setting or suffering with alcoholism and want to reach out to others who know exactly what you are going through. Whatever the issue, a mixture of 1:1 support and group chat could really benefit you and give you the ideas and tools which you would not think of yourself. All social networks provide a sense of belonging, security and community. You won’t feel so alone knowing that others go through hard times too. It is reported that support from networks is literally a life-saver as those who seek solace from friends and family or member of their church or community group are less vulnerable to ill health because of the positive messages and vibes they receive from the masses.

It is not only adults who benefit from being in group situations and it is important that kids also have a network of people they can trust and turn to if they need support. A sports coach or dance teacher might prove to be the person your child wants to download to. They will be the people that both you and your child trust and rely on for emotional and practical help and advice.

There are a number of ways you can teach your child that it is ok to ask for help and receive support from others. Start by showing your child that it is ok to need help and ask for it by asking your child for assistance with a task. This highlights that it is ok to sometimes be vulnerable. It can be simple things such as asking your child to load the dishwasher and explaining that you are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of housework you have to do. Show how you support others too. Maybe you are going to see a friend with home-made soup as they are ill. Ask your child to help prepare the bag. Discuss how the person might feel better when they receive the soup and show how others accept help.

As your child reaches their teenage years it’s time to back off a little, allowing them to seek help for themselves. They will turn to friends. If they are having difficulty with something and turn to you, be strong and ask your child who else they think they may be able to turn to for help. This exercise also leads into discussing friends in general and how different personalities offer various solutions for us throughout our lives. Even as adults, we may turn to one friend when we need someone straight-talking and another when we just need a hug.

Being part of different networks gives us access to a whole spectrum of individuals who can add colour to our lives. Encourage your child to be part of different groups by joining that youth group at the temple or kids art club in the village hall. The more activities your child gets involved in outside their home, the more interesting people they will meet. A feeling of independence will kick-in too.

Getting involved with activities in the community is a fabulous way to get involved and if it has a charity element, even better as it will again highlight the need to help others as well as be helped. There are always possibilities to get involved in voluntary projects as a family.

Life events such as divorce and bereavement can see our networks changing and friendships on the move. We lose friends and make new ones throughout our lives through moving house, changing school, starting university and changes in career. These experiences all present new opportunities to join other networks.

Being part of networks and groups eradicates feelings of isolation and that’s what The Group Hug is all about.