“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one” – Jane Howard
In the final post in this series on Raising an Unbreakable Child, I’d like to discuss the third factor identified in resilient children, namely, extended community.
Organic community is declining rapidly in this country. We move away from our families for jobs, we have one hundred “friends” on Facebook but don’t know our neighbors, we are hesitant to be “joiners” of anything from churches to clubs to sports leagues. We can easily live in our cars and inside our houses, creating a bubble around our families with little meaningful connections to the outside world.
It Really Does Take a Village
Creating new relationships can be uncomfortable, especially if you do not consider yourself a “joiner” or a “social” person. But it is not as scary as you think- it just requires someone being willing to make the first gesture.
This past weekend we had our first neighborhood “Halloween Block Party”. Neighbors I had never even seen before emerged from their houses eager to meet each other. Children made new friends and played for hours in driveways. It was a success, and now our neighborhood feels a little more cohesive.
Some Suggestions for Building More Community:
1) Have a neighborhood block party/cookie exchange/potluck. Pass out fliers and see who comes!
2) Ask a close friend to be a “special friend” to your child, to take a particular interest in your child, especially if they have a common interest. ( this is sort of like a “godparent”). One of my best friends who doesn’t have children is a special person in my daughter’s life, attending my daughter’s dance recitals and such. They have their own bond and I know my daughter can confide in her when the inevitable ” my mom is so uncool” teenage years hit.
3) Join a church. There are countless churches that reflect a variety of spiritual beliefs, and being part of a larger community with shared values is an excellent way for finding others who will be invested in your children’s well being. If you are not a religious person, try a country club or community center. The important part is having a regular place you go as a a family where people know you.
4) Create a regular “playgroup” with other mothers who have children the same age. Meet consistently and find ways to have meaningful interactions- perhaps engaging in a playgroup community service project. I am part of playgroup that has been meeting every other Friday since my daughter was 15 months. There are now twelve plus kids and six mommies who regularly see my children and enrich our lives.
Whatever feels right for you, the important thing is to get out of your comfort zone and get something going. Populate your children’s lives and you will see the long-term benefit.