By Bob Houghtaling

Dear Parents,

I am asking you to take a few moments to contemplate the importance of “social moorings.” While stability is an essential component of all of our lives, it is especially so for young people.

Social moorings are those basic traditions, activities, beliefs and habits that bind families, cultures and societies together. They speak to a common set of values and experiences that create reference points as well as security.

With the rapid expansion of technology, the world has gotten smaller and the pace of living accelerates each day. In many ways this is a good thing. Knowledge is exchanged quickly, educational opportunities abound and access to new modes of thought promises future advancement. With all of this said, there is a troubling side that accompanies these positives.

Stress, anxiety, reduction of interpersonal skills, disinformation and an inability to discern credible from incredible information has proliferated in recent years. In my opinion, much of this can be attributed to struggling with a quickly changing world.

Young people are significantly impacted by technology. In fact, most people 25 years old and younger cannot remember days without cell phones or a computer. In addition, a significant portion of their information gathering and social interaction is technologically based.

Each day I witness young learners, who due to reduced coping and social skills, experience a great deal of stress and anxiety. These often manifest themselves as; disorders, behavior problems, depression, phobias and having a sense of diminished purpose. Even though such problems have existed for years – the damaging effects caused have exacerbated over the last decade and a half.

This is where the importance of social moorings come in. They offer stability as well as a safe place (both emotionally and physically). Clubs, spiritual exploration (religion), exercise, family gatherings, Civics classes, face-to-face relationships, visiting the ocean and taking a nature walk are but a few activities that can slow the world down every once in awhile. Heck, maybe even an ice cream cone from time-to-time might be in order. These can all help ground kids and provide a bit of social stability.

Parents and other adults play an important role in the lives of kids. Love, guidance and being there on a consistent basis are essential for their growth. We all need a little permanence in our lives. Social moorings can serve as an island of respite during troubled times. Help create that little respite. See you soon.

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program.