It takes a village to raise a child. How many times have we heard this old trope throughout our lives? As a caregiver for a young child, we can absolutely relate to this sentiment. We need help. We need support. We need 10 arms and a camel back loaded with espresso shots. The benefits to us as the caregiver are numerous as it helps us feel connected, secure, and supported.
So, what benefits do kids receive from being part of their larger community? Think back to your youth. Who were the trusted adults in your life outside of your immediate family who supported you and still hold a special place in your heart? It could be a coach or a teacher. It might have been a spiritual leader from your community, or scout or troop leader. We may not always remember specific events with vivid detail, but the old phrase holds true, that the memories may fade, but you will always remember how someone made you feel.
Being active in your community with your child and encouraging healthy relationships with extended family and community members is an important part of your child’s social emotional development. Connections with others help children understand and navigate different relationship types. It can also offer kids a strong sense of security, connection, and belonging that they will carry with them into adulthood.
The National Scientific Counsel on The Developing Child (2009) stated that “relationships engage children in the human community in ways that help them define who they are, what they can become, and how and why they are important to other people.” There are also numerous benefits to children’s cognitive development. Strong relationships may help elevate a child’s self-worth, self-esteem, confidence, and pro-social behaviors. The amazing thing about connection and relationship are the numerous advantages they can support in almost every aspect of a child’s life and growth.
So how can we help our children engage in their communities and form these vital relationships? Here are some helpful tips for engaging with and integrating yourself into your community with your child:
- Play in front of your home with your child, set up a neighborhood picnic or game night.
- Go to public places like local playgrounds and parks where you and your child can meet new people and create new relationships.
- Find a cause that is important to you and your local community and then see how you and your child can help them.
- Volunteer at food pantries, animal shelters, or even something as small as bringing small homemade gifts to your neighbors.
- Create a game when driving around, ask them to look out their window and tell you what they see. Why are the people outside? Where are they going? What are they doing? How are they related? This simple game is a great way to help children understand relational interactions.
It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes conscious effort by caregivers to make sure that our children are able to create these very important connections. What are some ways that you encourage your children to build community in your neighborhood?