The Importance of Community Support in the Life of a Child
Children need a supportive community for a variety of reasons. Good relationships outside of the family unit give children a sense of belonging, which adds meaning and purpose to their lives. It has been said that children are our future and, without a doubt, they are society’s greatest asset. The community in which a child lives plays a central part in their healthy development by providing the sociological structure that has the potential to teach valuable skills and principles. These elements give children the psychological impetus to live a happy and successful life.
“It takes a village to raise a child”
–Old African proverb
For a child to grow emotionally and intellectually, an expansive body of research suggests that a healthy sense of community plays a vital role. Studies have repeatedly confirmed what people have known by way of common sense all along: children thrive in the presence of loving, reliable relationships with other people. Not only do these relationships include parents and other family members, but also a host of human resources such as teachers, pastors, caregivers, and neighbors. These relationships with people outside of the family structure impact a child’s life in a positive way when they meet the following criteria:
* The relationship should leave a child feeling nurtured and taken care of.
* Relationships should encourage individuation and autonomy.
* Children should have a sense of safety and security in their relationships.
* Relationships should include substantive interaction with the child.
* Open communication should be encouraged.
The Importance of Outside Relationships:
Science tells us that, from the time we are born, normal development is dependent upon the nurturing relationships we have with other humans. While the earliest attachments are usually with parents and other close family members, social skills are largely developed through interactions with people outside the family. Relational contact with others in the community teaches children many valuable skills such as:
* Principles like trust, honor, and respect
* Creative and critical thinking
* To care for others
* Conflict resolution
Children who have a firm foundation consisting of good relationships with people in their community exhibit other positive outcomes, as well, such as less substance abuse, more interest in learning, and better performance in school.
Community plays an integral role in infusing meaning and purpose into the lives of children. Kind and thoughtful neighbors, caring teachers, and other helpful adults instill a feeling in children that they belong and are cared for. The sense of community also helps youngsters develop into socially responsible adults. But, above all, when children feel connected to and supported by their community, their confidence and self-esteem levels are exponentially increased. Consequently, they are more likely to experience a greater level of success in life. Communities would do well to embrace children because, although commonly expressed as a cliché, children are our greatest hope for a prosperous future.
Dunn, J. (1993). Young children’s close relationships: Beyond attachment. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Reis, H.T., Collins,W.A. & Berscheid, E. (2000). Relationships in human behavior and development. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 844-872.
Bornstein, Marc (Ed.) (2002).Handbook of Parenting (2nd Ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.