You know that all-too-familiar African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”? Yea ... it is still relevant in 2021, and in five particular ways not often talked about. Yet the status quo of today's family has made parenting an isolated journey, and the idea of a village has gone somewhat quiet.
There is a crushing pressure on parents to “get it right” and “be more” - a culture focused more on doing rather than being, even if that means we are doing it on empty. So, where have all of the “villages” gone?
Well, to start, our current family cultures look different with single-parent homes, increased geographical space, and current-day practices that further disconnect and isolate (hello pandemic and virtual-everything).
In addition, there seems to be a negative stigma that if we do reach outside of ourselves to ask for help, 1) we must be unable and unfit to manage parenting tasks ourselves, 2) we are inconveniencing others, or 3) we are somehow not enough. We juggle, praying all things remain afloat in the face of personal and societal expectations because we would rather appear “okay” than give the impression that any of these three are in fact true.
To add to the pressure, social media depicts images of perfect homes and families which cause us to further shrink into ourselves with questions and uncertainty of our capabilities as parents. We often feel ill-equipped to raise our children, challenging our intuition as we filter the surplus of opinions.
And while different parenting views exist about all things parenting from best feeding and sleeping practices to school choices and more, we aren’t as separate as some may think. The one thing that unites us is our deep love for our children. In starting there, we place the first brick in rebuilding a supportive community that bonds parents and give them a sense of togetherness.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is still crucial in present-day parenting. And we wanted to tell you 5 reasons why:
1. A village fosters co-regulation.
Parenting is a relationship that sets a foundation for all other relationships. Often, the presence of other calming adults who aren't emotionally charged by a situation offers a new perspective for parents during challenging parenting moments and allows children to seek guidance during instances when all parties in a household need a break.
2. An increased sense of safety and connection yields enhanced social and emotional development.
If we are to raise children who are self and socially aware, why are we asking parents to confine their parenting village to the walls of their home, especially when research indicates otherwise? Alexandra Hamlet, a clinical psychologist of the Child Mind Institute, indicates that the more we are connected to human beings in a deep, empathic way, the more developmental and social benefits we receive. When a community of healthy adults supports a child, a robust social and emotional support system encircles that child. And, as the child becomes accustomed to feeling safe and connected, natural byproducts of awareness, regulation, and empathy - the cornerstones to emotional intelligence - are reinforced.
3. It is hard for parents to be well-versed in all of the hobbies and activities of interest to their child.
A village offers a wide lens for children to witness new ideas and talents and provides opportunities to learn from others who have strengths in various arenas. Perhaps your child is into art and wants to learn how to paint, and maybe that isn’t in your scope of interest. With a community support, your child is able to connect with those who have a mutual love and curiosity to further their skill-base in a range of activities.
4. A village can fill a gender gap within a home.
Some homes have single-parent or single-sexed members. A community offers an opportunity for opposite-sexed role models and supports.
5. Diversity and inclusion become a customary frame of mind.
When a child only interacts with a parent, they learn how to interact with that parent. A village allows for children to build relationships with individuals of varying races, cultures, beliefs, gender, abilities, and more. As such, children gain the skills to be part of a diverse community - to understand, empathize and communicate effectively with all parts of the village.
While, in many families, parents will continue to lead their homes in parenting practices, it’s hard to overlook the need for a supportive community. We don’t have to retreat to a parenting island, isolated and “doing it all” after the arrival of our little ones. Sometimes the greatest strength is in asking for help and allowing others in, shifting from a me to a we mentality. Because, at times, it does take a village.