IT TAKES A VILLAGE, BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE VILLAGE NO LONGER EXISTS?
Parenting is hard and it’s getting even harder. As a parenting educator, I often get asked why I think it so difficult to raise today’s generation. Is it technology, the economy, or maybe something in the water? Although many variables play a part in the changes we see today, my experience has taught me that children have not changed that much across generations.
Parents have been complaining about normal childhood development for centuries. There has been a shift in our society; however, and in my opinion, the real change comes from the loss of our “village.” We have heard that it takes a village to raise a child and anthropological studies will show that parenting was never meant to be done alone. Families thrived in communities and with support from one another. The changes we see today come from the social isolation that has been caused by technology, by the economy, and yes, maybe even by something in the water.
Where has our village gone? Growing up, I was held accountable for my behavior no matter where I went. It didn’t matter if I acted up at the playground, on the bus, at church, or at grandma’s. No matter where the offence happened, my community was stepping in and my parents were finding out about it. We knew our neighbors and we were not afraid to correct other people’s children. Today, this is not the case. Today, more than ever, both parents are working outside of the home, more families are migrating away from extended family, and there is an increased number of children raised in single-parent homes. We have lost our village through isolation, fear, and exhaustion. Without a concrete plan, parenting boils down to mood and energy level. Today’s parents are tired and some have given up. Our children have been lashed out at due to exhaustion and overindulged out of guilt. Today’s parents are putting more and more expectations on themselves and perhaps not enough on their children. We can’t be afraid to parent and we can’t be afraid to lean on our community, whose support is crucial for successful parenting.
Let’s be quicker to lend a hand than to judge and quicker to ask for help before taking on the world. As a parent and as an educator, I have learned to be gentle with myself and to evaluate my expectations. I can’t do it alone. I need a village and I need to accept that sparkling floors and “Pinterest worthy” parties are non-essentials. Step away from what pressures you can and ask for help when you need it. Let’s model empathy, self-care, and realistic expectations for our children.
Parenting expert L.R. Knost has said, “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” I urge parents, professionals, and family members to support one another and become the village we so desperately need.
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Kathryn Cannino, MS, CFLE, is the Program Director of EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute. Kathryn completed her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Science and has a Master’s in Counseling Education. She is a Certified Family Life Educator through the National Council on Family Relations and is deeply dedicated to her work with Long Island families.