The Nigerian proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” has been quoted often in the U.S., but families rarely apply this truism. In fact, the opposite seems to be in play. Families — and their children — are more isolated than ever. The reasons for this isolation can be blamed on numerous factors, such as a transient culture, difficulty in connecting with others and the mobility of society in general. Historically, extended families and a close-knit community provided this “village.” If a child was stopped by a police officer for truancy, the officer might have known the child or at least the parents through associations at church or in the neighborhood. While that type of connection is now the exception to the rule, parents still need others — a village — who can help them raise their children. Since that built-in community no longer exists, parents now need to create their own resources and support groups. Read on for some ideas of how to find or even create your own village.
Quality Family Time
Quality family time is likely the best place to begin building a strong family. Studies show that quality family time — eating dinner together at least five nights a week — benefits teens in numerous ways. These teens self-report as having strong relationships with their parents. This further translates to half the risk of using alcohol and one-fourth the risk of experimenting with marijuana. These young people were also less likely to smoke cigarettes. Creating strong family bonds extends to other activities — taking walks, playing board games, going to the park, enjoying family outings, going to movies and spending time building relationships. For further variety, include extended family members — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more.
Parenting Support Groups
Parenting support groups provide all types of general and specialized support. One of the most prolific groups in the nation, Parents Anonymous, emphasizes personal growth along with leadership teams where guardians can discuss parenting issues and build strong families.
Modeled after the 12-step programs of Alcoholics’ Anonymous and with a history of nearly half a century, the group has developed an established reputation of helping struggling parents. Attendance costs nothing, and there are no requirements to join or attend. PA holds meetings lasting from 90 to 120 minutes at convenient locations in many areas. They offer some groups in Spanish and also address the special needs populations. Parents receive hope and empowerment so that their families and children can make permanent changes.
Other parent support groups sometimes focus on specific family issues, such as special needs, disabilities, teen moms, adoptions, illnesses and more.
Scouting and Similar Groups
Traditionally, Cub Scouts, Daisies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and related groups have provided millions of youth with community support. All of the clubs seek to develop strong character and solid citizenship through various programs. They emphasize outdoors activities and responsibility along with education and career-oriented programs. Since children and teens connect with each other, parents gravitate toward community as well.
Connections via Social Media, Craigslist or Similar Online Forums
As support from extended families and traditional sources has dwindled, the internet has filled in some of those gaps with all types of online forums, including in social media venues. Craigslist, especially in suburban areas, also offers various classes, events, discussions and forums that can provide parenting support.
- Circle of moms – An online forum with questions and answers on nearly every parenting topic imaginable
- Family education – An online forum with articles on a wide range of parenting issues
- Parenting – This online community provides a venue for people to give and seek advice and learn more about improving their parenting skills
- Mothering – This forum focuses on natural and organic parenting
- Sybermoms – A forum to address a wide range of needs, including military moms and multiples.
- JustMommies– This community covers numerous aspects of fertility, family planning, conception, pregnancy and birth
- Parenthood Magazine– Provides parenting resources by geographical area
Churches and Faith-Based Programs
Many churches and houses of faith offer programs for children starting from birth through young adults. They have staff leaders who provide a strong example for teens and different activities, including spiritual lessons and fun activities throughout the week. They might also offer family counseling by lay pastors with varying qualifications.
Therapeutic Boarding Schools
Therapeutic boarding schools provide numerous benefits for parents and teens alike. However, the Federal Trade Commission strongly urges families to exercise due diligence in checking out the facility to ensure that it meets minimum standards and your expectations. Before availing yourself of these resources, visit the facility in person if possible. Do online research, ask the facility to document their claims in writing, ask pointed questions and trust your instincts. Check for licensing and accreditation as well.
Many therapeutic boarding schools offer individual, parental and family counseling, including aftercare to provide needed support. Parents can network with other families who have children in similar situations, forming a community of friendships for teens and parents alike. They will understand and share your concerns and offer insight from their perspective on dealing with these challenges.
Counseling – Individual, Parent and Family
Similar to counseling offered through a therapeutic boarding school, private counseling addresses the common needs of the teen, parents and family. However, the teen usually remains in the family home instead of attending a treatment facility. Seek a family counselor that specializes in your need, such as addiction, eating disorders, anger or related issues.
Community Outreach Programs and Events
Numerous facilities provide support and experience to families across the community. Some of the services they offer include:
- Prenatal education
- In-home visits to provide information and support
- A daycare center
- Education classes based on community demand
- Practical help with food, employment, health care and more and
- Vision, hearing and development screenings
Facilities might offer sliding scale fees based on the parents’ ability to pay. In addition, some programs provide personal consultation, which might benefit those who need specific parenting support.