We often hear today that the family unit is our foundation for morals, strength, and direction in life. And yet, cohesive family life seems to be harder to find than ever. On the other side of the coin, there is the concept of “it takes a village,” which implies that child raising is a community responsibility, and that too is failing.
We believe that being a global citizen and bringing up good citizens with cultural intelligence takes both a strong family base and an involved village.
Here’s a look at the hurdles we face in each aspect of child raising and how you can incorporate elements of family and community in bringing up kids we can all be proud of.
What Are Our Cultural Impediments to Talking at Home?
For most folks these days, having the entire immediate family around the breakfast or dinner table only happens on holidays. The rest of the time, we’re all so insanely busy that frequent meals are eaten on the run or with only part of the family present. This makes it challenging not only to have the conversations we need to talk about but to also build trusting relationships with our kids.
For a brief while, the pandemic forced people to stay in contained spaces with their families, although even that didn’t produce the kind of quality time many people need or want with their children. Factors that contribute to the current loss of family time, especially in Canadian and American households, include:
Higher rate of divorce and separation
Increased work hours, even when working from home
More parents working multiple jobs to stay afloat financially
Kids maintaining arduous schedules between academics and extracurriculars
Teens aging and naturally wanting to spend more time with friends
Competition from online and phone distractions like texting, social media, and streaming entertainment
Elderly grandparents not living with the family as in generations past
Families living farther away from the nuclear family
Add pandemic stress, politically charged times, and climate worries to the mix, and it’s the perfect recipe for inadvertently dropping the ball on building relationships, just at the time when we most need to reinforce them, from early childhood to the college years.
How do you talk about race with your kids when you’re always dashing out the door, coffee mugs and backpacks in hand? When might be a quiet time to talk in the car if it's intruded on by work calls from people who think you should be available 24/7? How do you direct online content curation so your kids are seeing things that reflect your values and not content that echoes stereotypes or extolls violence?
Even if you’re not attempting to have difficult conversations with children amid the chaos of day-to-day life, you need more stable time simply to create bonds for lifelong relationships. Without those connections, your kids may not come to you when they have questions about racism, bullying, sex, drinking, drugs, and other landmines that are now baked into Western society. You don’t want them driving home under the influence or getting their sex education from Facebook. But where do you find the time and the place for these discussions, and how do you help your children see how important they are?
And What About Community Child Raising?
Around the time divorce in Canada and the US began to rise—meaning there were more kids coming home to empty homes and more parents struggling just to stay afloat, let alone address family child raising—the theory of community child raising became popular again.
To be sure, the village raising its kids wasn’t new and had been articulated for generations. In fact, community child raising is nearly as old as mankind itself. However, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the idea was a life preserver in an ocean of tumult and overwhelm. Community centres and nonprofits stepped in to help where families were lacking, with all kinds of programmes for many of the issues raised above.
In the last decade or so, though, many of these initiatives have dwindled due to a variety of reasons. Some have fallen victim to a lack of funding or leadership. New technology like cell phones and home security has let parents feel better about kids being home after school alone. Lately, the pandemic has driven a wedge between many community members, whether through philosophical disagreements or required social distancing.
There is also a toxic media campaign that contradicts many of the values and tenets we want our children and our neighbourhoods to espouse. For example, CRT (critical race theory) has been vilified and called “anti-white” teaching when it’s actually history finally taught accurately to include the realities of slavery and modern-day racism. In the United States, almost half of Republican party members polled (more than 40 percent) believe schools shouldn’t teach the history of racism at all, often based on mistaken notions about CRT.
What If We Embrace Both?
It’s becoming increasingly clear that, today, we really need a combination of both approaches when it comes to raising kids: a family foundation at home and a community that supports what kids learn and then bring to the world. That’s great, but it’s obviously easier said than done. How do you facilitate that kind of cooperation and where do you start?
A good place to begin is to start small and build from there. Start by making time within your family—even if you have to cancel some other scheduled items—to have the conversations you want with your partner and your kids. Then, you can expand to other groups that might be receptive to the discussion, even if it becomes controversial or heated:
Clubs and volunteer organizations
Once you become comfortable having conversations with these groups, you can widen the circle again to include schools, workplaces, and more.
It’s not going to happen overnight, and sometimes it helps to have a third party to make sure everyone is in a safe space and is respected. That’s where Tough Convos enters the picture. We were founded to assist groups of all kinds with these discussions by giving them the tools they need to express themselves without fear or judgment.
If you’re struggling to have the conversations you want about raising kids, we would love to help you. We meet with schools, companies, nonprofits, clubs, and other groups to lead conversations that otherwise feel impossible to have—talks about racism, cultural awareness, and other sensitive issues that must be addressed for our society to function and for our kids to live the lives we dream for them.
Ready to take the conversation to another level? Call Tough Convos at 1 (858) 876-8176, or reach out online to let us know how we can help.