Back in the day, community living was a given. Dating back thousands of years to somewhat recently, people lived in communities for safety, socialisation, and shared resources.
But, the past century has drastically changed the concept of community, no matter if you live in a rural area, a suburban neighbourhood, or an urban metropolis. Families no longer co-habit as intergenerationally as they once did, especially as the appeal of the nuclear family began to increase.
Add to that the fact that extended families often fracture and live further and further apart. We are so caught up in the reality of constant “busy-ness” that we don’t even take time to get to know our neighbours.
The impact of this is acutely apparent with parents and children. The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is absolutely still true. But, somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the “village”.
Parents and caregivers – call them by any name you prefer – moms, dads, grannies, nannies, mentors, protectors, teachers and babysitters, all play an important role in their children’s development and have a powerful impact on their well-being, mental and physical health. Well-cared-for children are shown to be more emotionally intelligent and socially successful as adults.
When parents, or invested carers, are largely absent – either physically or emotionally, or both – their absence may negatively impact children’s academic achievement, early childhood development, general behavioural adjustment and anger management.
BEING PHYSICALLY PRESENT ISN’T ENOUGH
Yet just being physically present isn’t enough to be a parent or caregiver to a child. It is critical that an adult be warm and emotionally available to the child in their care.
A parent’s attitude toward emotions can have a big impact on the way children learn to cope with feelings. Children whose parents respond to their emotions with patience and empathy do better in lots of ways, including academic achievement, better overall health, and stronger friendships.
While children may not always recognise the importance a caregiver plays in their lives, most children long for and need a loving, involved, and responsible parent or parental-figure.
Children with involved, caring adults in their lives while growing up have better educational outcomes. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of parenting and caring associates with better verbal skills and intellectual functioning.
Children who have an involved parent-figure in their lives are more likely to be emotionally secure. They are confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, will have better social connections with their peers. These children are also less likely to get in trouble at home, school or in the neighbourhood.
Credit: Child Welfare Information Gateway Rich Batten, Colorado State University Extension