My family and I recently moved to Utah from Texas.
After three years of living in Dallas, in the heat and humidity far away from family, there have been a few adjustments to make. But besides purchasing winter coats and introducing our children to fry sauce, one change has been especially apparent as we’ve settled into life here in the Beehive State — my kids have a lot of adults who are actively helping to raise them.
Of course, we had friends in Texas who interacted with our children, but I was never so aware of the important impact this “village” had on my kids until it became more obvious to me.
Here are 10 reasons (in no particular order) that I’ve discovered for enlisting help — from family, friends and neighbors — in the childrearing process.
1. Other people love your kids.
Whether families live close together or far apart, they always love each other. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents love the kids in their lives, and kids can feel that. Watching other people love and teach your kids is adorably tender — and beneficial for everyone.
2. Your kids get a bigger support system.
It’s important for parents to support their kids. It’s even better when other friends, family members and neighbors show up to games, plays and graduations to create a bigger cheering section.
3. Parenting is hard.
Especially in difficult times — like when someone falls ill, or a new baby is born, or postpartum depression sets in — raising small children can be a significant stressor. Parents with a village of support can get the help they need quickly and easily, which makes it easier to get back on their feet.
4. Life is short.
Time is precious. Though it’s not something we like to think about, time with our loved ones can be fleeting. It’s important for young children to establish relationships with family — especially their aging grandparents and great-grandparents, because those memories will be precious to them as they grow into adulthood.
5. A strong sense of family creates strong kids.
Whether families are large or small, and whether they live near each other or far away, research shows that a strong family narrative helps kids develop resilience to challenges. The “New York Times” reported on a 2001 study that revealed a connection between children who knew a lot about their families and those who did not. In part, the article said, “Children who have the most self-confidence have what (researchers) call a strong ‘intergenerational self.’ They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.”
6. Sometimes others have the best ideas.
Maybe you have a child who is nothing like yourself, and you don’t know how to handle him/her. Maybe your child gets sick and you know nothing about the illness. Maybe you can’t handle another tantrum or sleepless night. Having other people around to brainstorm solutions and take new approaches to your child can be a lifesaver.
7. Other people have different talents and skills.
When children have adults in their lives besides their parents, they gain access to a wider range of interests, opinions and attitudes. Kids can learn new skills, participate in new activities, and learn about new ideas from their “village.”
8. A village creates a sense of community.
Even if your village is a little crazy, it’s good for kids to feel like they are part of a team.
9. Kids can help their “village” as much as the village helps them.
Friends, neighbors, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends may be a parent’s first options for babysitters, but a village doesn’t exist simply to support the child. In many ways, children give back to the people who love and care for them. Perhaps it takes a village to raise a child because the child needs to learn to become part of a community — to give back, to serve others, to share love.
10. Children develop different, strong relationships.
When children are only exposed to their parents, they only learn how to interact with a parent. But when a child spends time with neighbors, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers and others, they learn how to interact appropriately with all types of people. These skills help children as they grow.