The Importance of Community Support in Raising Children

Group of children blow bubbles over bridge while adult woman supervisesWhen the uniquely challenging task of raising children is supported within the community, it benefits families and society as a whole. Given that communities are made up of diverse families, it would stand to reason those who care for children and provide opportunities for both parents and children to connect to others are stronger and higher functioning.

Given the demands they face and the futures they’re responsible for, all parents can benefit from support. The first step for parents in getting the support they need is to ask for it. However, many parents are at a loss as to where to look for support, and others may feel uncomfortable accepting support when it is offered. When parents receive the support they need, they’re likely to be more relaxed and healthier, set an example for their children that it is okay to ask for help, and show their kids the value in both helping and being helped.

The primary objective of community-based support programs for parents is to increase their capacity to develop the skills to acquire resources, a support network, and services. Community-based parent support programs and initiatives can have a direct impact on child behavior outcomes in that they enhance parents’ capabilities and efficacy, particularly when they are family-centered as opposed to professionally centered.

Family-centered or help-giving approaches move away from the perception professionals are the experts who determine the needs of parents and prescribe what to do to increase their quality of life. Family-centered clinicians see themselves as facilitating parents in finding the resources and support they need. In my experience as a therapist working with families, parents who perceive themselves to be more competent have more positive interactions with their children, which I believe encourages children’s social and emotional development and has a positive impact on behavior.

Characteristics to look for in community-based parent support programs are a high degree of respect, high regard, compassionate support, family choice for intervention options, resources to make informed decisions, and access to supports that allow parents to nurture their children using techniques that create optimal outcomes.

Family-centered or help-giving approaches move away from the perception professionals are the experts who determine the needs of parents and prescribe what to do to increase their quality of life.

The way help is provided in these support programs can have a direct impact on their outcomes. Help should be provided using methods that promote parental self-efficacy and the ability to foster social and emotional development of children. Programs that function in a family-centered manner may increase parents’ sense of confidence and competence. Practices that elicit parents’ feedback on information they believe is important, and that actively solicit parental participation, also help to achieve this.

When parents are provided opportunities for personal growth, and to gain the knowledge and skills to perform in leader roles, parent leadership is fostered. Parent leadership is said to be successful when there is solid collaboration between parents and practitioners with a foundation of mutual respect, equal responsibility, expertise, and confidence in the decisions being made that impact their families and the greater community.

The benefits of these programs and initiatives aren’t limited to those being helped. Parents who get involved to provide support for other parents may feel a sense of pride and fulfillment in knowing they are making a difference while simultaneously promoting their own growth and development.

Some resources for finding and accessing community-based support programs for parents include:

  • Parenting and family support organizations
  • Local parenting groups and play groups
  • Schools
  • Babysitting clubs
  • Libraries
  • Government agencies (e.g., departments of human and health services)
  • Family and friends

References:

  1. Dunst, C.J., Trivette, C.M., & Hamby, D. W.(2006). Family support program quality and parent, family and child benefits. Asheville, NC: Winterberry Press.
  2. Dunst, C. J., Trivette, C. M., & Hamby, D. W. (2008). Research synthesis and meta-analysis of studies of family-centered practices. Asheville, NC: Winterberry Press.
  3. Kagan, S. L., Weissbourd, B., eds. (1994). Putting families first: America’s family support movement and the challenge of change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  4. Layzer, J. I., Goodson, B. D., Bernstein, L., & Price, C. (2001). National evaluation of family support programs: Final report. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.

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  • 7 comments
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  • Constance

    Constance

    May 3rd, 2016 at 8:33 AM

    Extended families and community help can be such a blessing especially to those who are raising children in a single parent home. That may not always be the ideal situation, but it is so helpful when there are others out there who will help out.

  • Kenna

    Kenna

    May 3rd, 2016 at 11:36 AM

    In the words of Hillary it takes a village

  • LeaH

    LeaH

    May 4th, 2016 at 8:50 AM

    Look, in an instance when you are raising children, not only do you want to have a strong family unit, it is also so nice to have a community of friends who will support you and help create the strongest children that is imaginable. You might be in need, you may not be, but who doesn’t want to have someone to rely on for help, advice, etc?

  • Thomas

    Thomas

    May 5th, 2016 at 10:00 AM

    There will also be times though when the community could bring you down. Think about that.

  • Hollis

    Hollis

    May 7th, 2016 at 5:28 AM

    Having a strong church family can be a great way to know that your child is being nurtured and loved by more than you and your immediate family. These are people who are going to want to make sure that your child is cared for physically as well as spiritually and this is something that I personally believe that many kids are lacking in their lives.

  • sheila G

    sheila G

    May 9th, 2016 at 2:55 PM

    Neighbors, schools, churches, mosques, all of these things can be so helpful when it comes to raising a strong child.
    It can be nice to have people from all different walks of life play a role in your child’s upbringing. It allows them to not be as sheltered as they may be otherwise. It gives them a chance to learn new things form different people so that eventually they can form their own conclusions about what they believe and don’t believe.
    Personally I think that the more people that kids can be aorund as they grow up, the better and more well rounded that they will be.

  • PJ

    PJ

    May 11th, 2016 at 11:17 AM

    I am still a little wary of this because how do I know that the values that I have and want for my children will effectively be communicated and enforced by another person? I mean, I get that we want the support but we don’t want them to do it all, because if you are like me I have specific things that are important to me that I want to convey to my kids.

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