“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African Proverb
In African folklore, the tale of Anansi the witty spider and the wisdom gourd beautifully illustrates the concept of a community being essential in the proper upbringing of a child. This story paints vivid visuals that highlight the importance of collective support and guidance. When we boast of our accomplishments, it is not with a single finger but with the combined strength of our hands. Raising a child requires more than just the efforts of one or two parents; it calls for drawing wisdom, guidance, and experiences from others.
The essence of this proverb lies in understanding that children thrive when they benefit from a diverse range of experiences, influences, and perspectives. They flourish within an environment where a network of individuals collectively contributes to their well-being, providing them with support and nurturing.
In today’s world, there are two significant challenges that hinder the opportunity to embrace this proverb. Firstly, the general Westernization of African communities has weakened the communal life that once thrived. Secondly, the relocation of many Africans to other parts of the world has distanced them from the strong community bonds they once had. However, despite these changes, the essence of the proverb remains relevant. Here are some strategies parents can employ to raise socially balanced children:
1. Foster Strong Family Bonds: Create a loving and supportive family environment by spending quality time together, engaging in open communication, and demonstrating respect and empathy. Encourage family traditions, rituals, and shared experiences that strengthen the sense of belonging. Start this early and continue it consistently.
2. Engage with the Community: Actively involve your child in community activities, such as volunteering, participating in local events, or joining a faith-based organization. This allows them to develop a sense of civic responsibility, empathy, and an understanding of different perspectives. For communities with shared values, consider involvement in a local church as a way to engage with a supportive community.
3. Be a Positive Role Model: Children learn by observing their parents and caregivers. Model the behavior and values you want to instill in them. Demonstrate kindness, integrity, and empathy in your own actions and interactions. Show them the importance of contributing positively to society. By being kind to others, you also increase the pool of positive influences that your children can have.
4. Cultivate a Community of Friends: Develop meaningful connections with other families and involve your children in interactions with these families. Seek out parents who share your values and serve as positive role models for your children. This can be easier for families still rooted in their local communities. For those who have relocated, utilize technology to maintain connections and consider joint vacations or visits to strengthen relationships.
These strategies serve as a starting point for this conversation. There are additional approaches and considerations that can further enhance the village concept in raising children. If you are interested, I am happy to share more insights.