One of the biggest obstacles for young women leaving residential treatment is building healthy relationships. Many teens come from a background of social isolation or making connections based on shared negative experiences or interest in risky behaviors. For both groups of teens, social media has played a role in both helping them maintain social connections and contributing to unhealthy comparisons between bodies, lifestyles, and social status. As an alternative to social media, healthy social activities help girls develop meaningful relationships based on shared core values.
Unhealthy Forms of Connection
Toxic relationships can be just as destructive as a lack of connection altogether. Although girls place a higher value on relationships than boys tend to, they don’t necessarily have a healthier sense of what relationships should look like.
Some factors that contribute to unhealthy relationships among teen girls include:
- Obsessing over likes on social media
- Excessive technology use
- Body comparison
- Substance Use
- Participating in risky behaviors together
- Bonding over traumatic experiences
The Role of Social Media in Disconnect
Many young women struggle with developing healthy relationships in the digital age. While social media gives girls a platform to portray their best self and is an easier way to connect than calling someone or seeing them in person, relationships become weakened when most socializing is done artificially. As girls tend to be more expressive and emotional in relationships, particularly online, they may feel a disconnect between their online identity and their true sense of self.
Girls are more vulnerable to the effect of heavy social media use, due to a combination of being exposed to cyberbullying, missing out on sleep, and not getting enough exercise. Research suggests that social media itself doesn’t cause harm, but frequent use can interfere with activities that have a positive impact on mental health.
Girls leaving residential treatment have a particularly hard time transitioning from a supportive environment surrounded by peers to returning to the digital world, where they can quickly dive back into old patterns of thinking. Although they’ve developed more self-awareness and more effective communication skills, they find it difficult to connect with others in a meaningful way. Many girls choose to delete old profiles that bring up negative memories or were followed by unhealthy influences, but a fresh slate can bring up feelings of loneliness and fear of missing out.
Alternative Social Activities
Journey Home East encourages girls to participate in a variety of recreation activities to help them develop healthier relationships. When struggling with emotional and behavioral issues, many teens have struggled to develop healthy coping skills, let alone interest in healthy activities that they can participate in as a group.
Some ways Journey Home East encourages girls to build relationships outside of social media and negativity include:
- Going on hikes
- Rock climbing
- Making art
- Playing games
- Cooking together
Journey Home East Can Help
Journey Home East is a transitional living program for young women ages 16-21. This program focuses on helping women transition from long-term treatment to the real world. The idea is to ween them off support systems of being in programs for many years and hone in on functional living skills they need to be independent. Journey Home East helps with scheduling for school, classes, work, internships. This program also provides health coaching, relationship building, dating safety and personal safety tips. Students have the opportunity to equip themselves with the skills they need to lead happy, healthy, and successful lives post-treatment.