Does it Take a Village to Raise a Child? Parenting Today

Does it Take a Village to Raise a Child? Parenting Today

All parents need some type of support network when raising young children. What this support network looks like though, can vary. Different parents need varying levels and sources of support depending on the following;

  • their personalities
  • their mental health and physical health
  • their financial statuses and work situations

For example, some need a strong emotional support system, while others need support in the form of childcare due to a full-time job. 

So does it take a village to raise a child? Yes; but, that village can and does look very different from family to family.

When many parents hear the ancient African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”, they often think of a village as a large circle of close and trusted friends and extended family members.  

There are many parents, however, who do not have a large circle of close friends and family. At least not locally. Living hundreds or even thousands of miles away from extended family is common in the United States for many nuclear families. 

As a result, many parents are left feeling like they are missing out on the so called village that they are supposed to have. These parents may feel isolated and also worried that their children are missing out on important social connections and a sense of community.

I understand this sentiment. My husband and I have moved states twice since my first child was born. We are far away from our extended families and struggle to schedule in time with friends.

Now with a new baby, we spend much of our time feeling like we are in survival mode. We haven’t slept through a night in over a year and young children have insane amounts of energy as it turns out. So, we are tired.

Your Village Can Look Different From Another Family’s Village

Despite feeling like I do not have a parenting village at times, I am starting to realize that maybe I do have the beginnings of a small village. It just does not look like the stereotypical whole village with constant contact with close friends and family I always assumed it would look like. 

In a Front Public Health research article, the authors explain that a child’s village members are those who “share responsibility” in raising a child. This could be anyone from parents to extended family to friends to neighbors to members of the wider community. 

So while not all parents have local grandparents they can call for childcare backup, they may have neighbors or members in their communities who have a positive impact on the development of a child on some level, however small. 

For example, my 4 year old attends an amazing preschool with three wonderful teachers. I know that they have a significant role in his life and are taking a piece of responsibility in his social, cognitive, and emotional development. My son also takes gymnastics classes and loves his gym teachers. They too, in a small way are sharing some of the responsibility with me in raising him and helping create a healthy environment for him.

Any organized activity we expose our children to is a potential place to find village members and community support. Of course those village members probably aren’t going to end up being people we can call on for childcare backup, but they still play a part in a family’s sense of community. 

Who Can be Members of Your Village?

As discussed, village members do not exclusively have to be close friends and family. Village members can also be people you have a connection with like your neighbors or even your local librarian. Having a local trusted friend or two is certainly something to strive for, but you can’t discount the village members that are part of your wider community.

Having the mindset that I am surrounded by potential village members makes me feel like I’m not a mom without a village. It empowers me to create my own village and recognize that there is an entire community of healthy adults out there for me and my family to connect with.

I am learning to see anyone who I form a repeated and positive connection with as a potential village member. This is a great approach to expose my children to at a young age, They will grow up feeling like they have access to an entire community of people. They will also become active members of the community themselves this way and learn about the importance of community involvement. 

I also remind myself that even long-distance friends and family are still village members. Reaching out virtually on a regular basis is important in these cases.

Brainstorm Ways to Find Village Community Members

If you do not have local extended family or close friends, you have to get creative about forming your village. 

Here are some potential ways to find your village;

  • Seek out organized recurring activities for your kids
  • Join your city or town’s facebook group for local parents (I have found out about so many good resources from fellow moms by joining my local moms’ facebook group)
  • Check out the Peanut app (basically online dating for mom friends)
  • Be the first to say hi (be bold, be brave, and be a friend to make a friend)
  • Check out your local parks and local events
  • Do a google search for local family volunteer opportunities
  • Check out your local library and organized events and activities
  • Video chat with non-local friends and family (stay in touch through live virtual interaction, don’t just scroll through your social media feed)

Get Out There and Build Your Village

Build your village as slowly or as fast as you want. And make it feel right for you and your family. Do not compare your village to another family’s village or family life, because we are all living our own stories. As long as we are creating a safe space for our children and helping them form healthy connections, we are doing okay. 

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