‘It takes a village to raise a child…” is an African proverb that means an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. The entire village provides the foundation of knowledge and social wisdom to raise well-adjusted children and look out for them as if they were there own.
This is a universal truth.
It is no different in communities across America. Families are supported in their child-rearing by family members, neighbors, teachers, coaches and faith community leaders. Each person brings significant wisdom, subject matter expertise, and unique caring to a child. This collaborative effort supplements parenting as children navigate through the challenge of growing up and being a kid in a sometimes-scary world.
Social media and the 24hr news cycles inundate us with the negativity, hostility and real-life trauma. It is frightening enough to try to parent without the deluge of “monsters under the bed” in real time, all the time. War, rumors of war, guns at school, #MeToo, child abuse, poverty, gangs, murder, cyberbullying and every other demon that can tragically be imagined. Is it any wonder we want to wrap our children in bubble wrap and keep them close… not let them out of our sight?
Reasonable parenting is letting go of the fear and allowing our most prized possessions, our children to wander out into that wilderness. How do we protect them? How do we raise them safely, supported and nurtured through their critical growing up years? We get a village, a trustworthy capable village vetted and managed by the parents as directors of their children’s ultimate success.
Vetting the village is critical, unfortunately there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. That means you ask questions, you are present and you are aware as a parent when it comes to the village members you invite into your community. Parents cannot abdicate their due diligence when it comes to their children. Children can be coached by wonderful coaches for example, and those amazing coaches understand boundaries and appropriate relationships with children.
Predators try to create opportunities for exploitation by using secrecy, threats and dividing your child from the group or team. Parents need to have open conversations with their children, for any anxiety, hesitation, or mood change. LISTEN. Parents need to have those same difficult conversations with their village members as well.
With that caveat in mind, who are the members of the tribe that constitutes the village that becomes the patterns of your family quilt?
Educators can be wonderful team members. These men and women are dedicated to educating, teaching and opening the mind of a child to possibilities. Who better than a dedicated teacher to be a part of your village? Faith community leaders, Sunday school teachers, rabbis, youth pastors, etc. are individuals who can support your parenting core values such as faith, hope, kindness, and balance in a world that may seem broken to your child. Coaches are fantastic members of the village as they strengthen your child’s ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves, a TEAM!! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins love unconditionally as they become part of your child’s fan base for sports, speeches, school plays, recitals, and choir.
The list can include band leaders, choir directors, neighbors, and a whole host of other good adults who can love your child “almost” as much as you do as a parent. And that caring, supportive attention from a positive influence helps your child experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. Your village will look out for your child, and we can all use a little looking out for from time to time. Creating and communicating with ‘YourTeam’ can foster security in your child and a sense of well-being. The more your child is nurtured by healthy, supportive role models the more likely your child will be able to weather conflicts and disruptions. A strong, concerned and helpful village means a bigger safety net and a much larger soft place to land for your child.
Parenting is a little scary in these troubling times. You do not have to do it alone. Create a trusted village so that your child has many eyes watching, many hands helping, many shoulders carrying and many smiles uplifting.
Your village is out there.