A lovely African proverb says: It takes a village to raise a child. How true!
Parenting indeed is a shared responsibility-a communal affair of sorts, where the responsibility is not just confined to the parents’ alone. It extends to extended family like grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (if nearby) and to friends, immediate neighbors, caregivers etc.!
However, this always doesn’t happen because both as a seeker and as a giver, we sometimes fail to realize our responsibilities and fail to either seek or extend help, thereby ruining the dynamics of this “shared responsibility” feature.
As a giver, we fail in all those moments, when we don’t extend help to a parent in distress. In fact most of the times, I see people doing everything else except extending the actual help.
People churn out heaps of advice (as to what all the parent should or should not do), and will prefer to bitch about the parent’s bad parenting rather than extending an actual support system. We have a pandora of ideas except the most precious bit called “practical help”!
And as a seeker, we are, I guess, too snobbish/ too egoistic/too shy to ask for help, all in the name of living up to the false image of being a super-mom or wonder-woman or something more divine( all because some mythical aunt or scripture said so). Seriously! So much for the title?
Earlier when families lived close to each other, this responsibility was extended, by default, to family members. There were uncles and aunts, grandparents and older cousins, who all happily shared the responsibility of child rearing and thereby, helped a newbie mother come back on track. Most of them took the onus collectively on the behalf of a new mother, in her life changing event of becoming a mother! No doubt, it was the most effective way of helping a newbie mother revive from the post-partum stress as well.
And not just that, a mother is a human being and needs an efficient support system, to raise children into responsible adults. And what better way to raise them than show them some responsible adults around them, while they are growing up! Well, while all this looked pretty normal some few years ago, the scene looks all the more dismal now because people think that it’s only equations (blood relations), which work well in sharing the responsibility.
In nuclear families, this can be a growing concern, yet you can change it for the sake of creating a healthy atmosphere for your child. Reaching out to people in need or becoming friendly for the sake of having your own support system, will help you more than anything else. However, if you continue to dwell in your own bubble with your own ego, or believe that being good to people is like doing a favor, then you will never be able to give or receive.
I love to be part of apartment/gated communities or small in-house campus premise, which do model a miniature family for most of the new-age nuclear families these days.
The apartment community is the new age “village”, in which the thriving culture is so much similar to what I love to tag as “campus culture”. This village or group of supportive people is what you need to assist you in child rearing!
You see, I grew up in University campus (my father used to work for the University). Being a “campus kid” helped me stay connected to many lives during the course of my growing up years. This wide network of people, in my ups and downs of life, made me feel anchored. I always felt accepted, belonged to a larger group of people, which somehow fueled my confidence in me through most of my life.
The confidence of reaching out to people, across all age groups and cultures, comes very naturally to me, only because of this diversity, during my growing up years. My parents also helped in sustaining this large group of people and the dynamics, by extending help and staying connected to each other, all throughout.
All this has strengthened my belief in the community structure and its benefits on kids, especially in their growing up years.
To feel a part of the group, to serve together as a community, to work towards a common set of goals, to face the challenges together as one big family (despite not being related), creates a far larger set of skills than one can ever imagine!
Let me as a parent and as a true believer of community parenting, cite a few advantages of raising kids in a community or in a network that can be called as good as a family.
- As a parent when you identify a group of parents’ or like-minded people, you end up availing support in your parenting journey. This support system also helps in teaching your kids about the actual look and feel of an “adult” and not some other misconstrued meaning, by way of loose talks.
- Cross cultural interactions by way of diversity in your support system or group of friends teach your kids to accept differences by way of language, caste, creed, culture and religion. In short, the child becomes immune to such differences and learns to appreciate people the way they are.
- Celebrating all religious festivals and appreciating people with harmony will come naturally to your child. In times of religious apathy and growing indifference, I as a parent feel, teaching children about developing cultural tolerance is the most important skill for survival, especially when residing within a diverse group of people.
- You as a parent stay happy and therefore, help yourself in raising your kid joyfully. The quality time spent with friends and family reflects through your parenting, which is the most crucial element while raising a child.
- You know help is at a stone’s throw. This strengthens your trust and belief on your well-wishers and so it does, for your child. Your child will grow feeling more anchored and most importantly, he will ask for help in moments of crisis and not shy away. He will learn that it’s ok to seek help. Isn’t that what we want for our children? Or do we want to raise kids, who should silently suffer, in order to nurture an ego, rather than seek out help?
- Skills to the likes of team building, interpersonal, problem solving and several other skills develop from the perspective of a larger group of people rather than from an individual’s perspective. Being able to work through a large, diverse group of people, early on, is a sure shot way of building people skills, which in turn will work phenomenally well at work place, later in life.
- By being a part of several groups in a gated community, you often work towards several goals at the same time. This is very good to show your kids that in life, several duties go hand-in-hand at the same time and there is no one-by-one work routine. This can help cultivate multi-tasking skills and also help in managing time and energy efficiently in order to meet several goals.
- One person or parent is just not sufficient to model every kind of good behavior. Don’t lose heart parents, we are all just humans at the end of the day. You will have both good and bad days, despite being unintentional. The more trusted individuals there are in your vicinity, the more your child learns about various skill sets( via different personalities) and encounters shades of goodness around. For instance, a grandparent reading books, an aunt/uncle taking time out for playing games or an outing with a friend’s mom are all adding to layers of skills in a child, along with an attitude of extending help.
Remember parents, you have to create a tribe of trusted individuals, who are as involved and invested in your child’s future as you are. It really takes a lot to help a child to navigate through their years of formal education. The idea is to receive, appreciate and extend help towards all, so as to create a support system that creates a solid ground for symbiotic relationships (please refrain from parasitic ones)!
In life, actual learning happens way beyond classroom and children learn a lot from what they see. Invest in creating a sensible support group that helps in sustaining the quality of your parenting and helps in creating more stable, secure and resilient kids.