Collective Parenting

21 Nov

villageGone are the days when ‘Family’ meant not only husband, wife and child; but also uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents all living under the same roof. Then, there was always someone to talk to, share resources with, get guidance from, learn acceptance from, make adjustments with and children always had some one to chat and play with.

The family structure is way different today. Due to circumstances or personal reasons young adults prefer to stay alone and shy away from having more than 2 children. Many a time parents are working, and working long hours. The result – Either children spend most of their time at home without adult guidance and supervision or they may be overburdened with too many after school activities. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common among children and the youth.

Its stressful territory for both the parent and the child. Parents are sometimes not aware nor equipped with skills to deal with the challenges faced by children today. Navigating parenthood can be a daunting experience – Every support is welcome and necessary to ensure that our children grow up with love, attention, positivity and self-confidence.

Recently while watching a group of parents interact it struck me that its here we have a huge reserve of talent and skill. All we need to do is pool in, structure our schedules, work together and look out for each others children.

I ‘de like to call it ‘Collective Parenting’.

Its when 5-7 families who live close to each other get together as a group. Adults in the group being from different backgrounds and having varied interests can play a pivotal role in providing the children with diverse experiences that nurture the ‘Whole Child’.

Devoting some time and effort is all it requires for each parent to be a part of creating a scaffolding system to support our children and youth.

Start by listing out various strengths of the parents, maybe grandparents and various other adult members of the group – like homework support, sports, value building , non judgmental listening , reading ,Creative writing etc.

Next brainstorm on a few activities the group would like to involve itself in. Is it primarily fun activities or new experiences or academic help or value building or creating a safe forum for the children to voice out their fears and challenges?

Once the group is clear on what 3-4 activities are important for them to pursue, create a framework and plan your activities

Focusing on an age group may be helpful as programmes for young children would be quite different from one that serves teens.

Involve youngsters in planning the program. The more involved they are in planning the more interested they will be in participating.

Depending on the needs of the members of the group and the resources available different types of activities could be done like

Reading Time /Story time ;  Art ; Academic skill building; Outdoor games; Field Trips; Community Service projects ; Interacting with professionals from different walks of life; Discussions on topics like friendships , breakups, managing emotions , addictions. The possibilities are unending. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the program through surveys and make changes according to the needs of the group.

Parents in the group should think of themselves as surrogate caregivers for every child in the group.

There may be teething problems like – jealousy or bickering or misunderstandings but these can be ironed out if every parent in the group keep in mind the idea behind why the group was formed – For our children, because sometimes individual households find it difficult to raise children without connecting with other parents.

Parents could also meet regularly to discuss their own parenting challenges. Its easier to find solutions when you are not on your own.

There is an African proverb which says “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Parenting is ‘Shared Responsibility’. We have a collective responsibility to the children we interact with even if we did not conceive or bear them. In the absence of the extended family we need to step up and be the strength and support for each other.

As the child grows different families will join this village giving and receiving mutual help thus enriching not just all our lives but the lives of our children too. This shared responsibility is also echoed in this Swahili proverb- One hand does not nurse a child.  Lets join hands so that when days are bad and some weeks look very long , you know a caring parent is watching over your child.


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