* It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

By Heather Miller, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 15, 2017 –

“It takes a village to raise a child.” This African proverb seems to be even more relevant in 2017, with working parents and single parents (and the accompanying family “busyness” that has become the norm) trying to raise a family.

And yet, even though it seems that the support of a “village” is so desperately needed, it often seems like this concept has somewhat disappeared from our society.

Raising children is a difficult task for which no one is ever completely prepared.  There are situations where support from others is not only warranted but also desired by the parent.

Often in our individualistic society, offering support to a fellow parent is considered improper and viewed as “stepping on toes.”  However, this mindset can lead to lonely, stressed parents, which then leads to stressed children.

Often risk factors are examined to explain why some children are more likely than others to “be successful” and overcome challenges.  Coupled with risk factors are protective factors, which can help the child take steps toward success.

According to the National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention, protective factors “are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families.”  Examples of protective factors include social connections for parents as well as concrete supports for parents.

Offering support to a fellow parent does not have to be time-consuming or overly personal.  Following are simple ways in which support can be given:

  • Invite the family to a social function you are planning to attend such as a church event or neighborhood picnic.  Such events give adults the ability to connect with one another and form friendships that can lead to additional support.
  • Offer a kind word and a smile to a parent that has a child having a meltdown at the store, park or other place.  An empathetic response and assurance that every parent has experienced a public meltdown by a child is likely to be appreciated.
  • Focus on the big picture by recognizing that people parent in different ways but the ultimate goal is to raise happy, healthy children.  Getting hung up on differences such as appropriate consequences can lead to additional division rather than support.  No two parents will likely agree about how to handle every situation involving a child, but accepting that there are numerous ways to parent is important.
  • If you know the family and feel comfortable, offer to set up a carpool system or swap babysitting services.  Thirty minutes of child-free house cleaning can be a huge support to a parent and not overly burdensome for you.