Thursday, March 10, 2011

Assessing your Social Support Network

A Social Support network is the group of people who help you make it safely through the challenges you encounter in life. Your primary support network is usually composed of those closest to you—often your family and close friends. There will be some people in your network that you talk with about the things on your mind. Others will be people you do enjoyable activities with. Still others are people that you can go to for help if a minor emergency arrives—they may be able to watch your kids for a few hours so you can attend class if your normal arrangements fall through, or they might be able to give you a ride to work or class if your car breaks down. You will also have a secondary social support network that can include acquaintances, peers, coworkers, teachers, college support staff, counselors, service providers, and any other people you feel comfortable going to when you want assistance. We will explore secondary support networks in future articles. For now, let’s look at how to assess your primary support network. Who is in it? Does it need to be larger, smaller, or is it just the right size?

A good way to decide who is part of your primary social support network is to answer these five questions:

1. When I am trying to relax and de-stress, who do I spend time with?

2. When I need help in an emergency, which people do I usually ask?

3. When I am frustrated or upset about something, who do I usually talk to?

4. When I need a favor, who is on the list of people I would ask?

5. When I need advice or help with solving a problem, who would I ask?

There might be several names that come up for each question. Names that come up frequently are probably the supporters you rely on the most. If you have any questions with no names next to them, this might indicate areas where you could build and strengthen your network.

Alternatively, you might find that you have a long list of names for each of those questions, and that your network is extremely large. Do you think it is possible for a Social Support network to be too large?

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