As the title goes, it takes a village to raise a child, but what exactly makes up this village? This african proverb is saying that many people, and not just parents, are involved in providing the proper environment for our children to grow up in a safe and healthy manner. Perhaps more easily relatable for older generations with its relation to the kampung spirit, the community becomes very involved in the upbringing of a child. In the current context, the village has now dwindled and parents may feel that the responsibility is on their shoulders alone.. However, the interaction with the community beyond their immediate home is equally as essential as we can’t possibly only keep our children at home. Trying to bring back this village will help parents feel less stressful and alone in their parenting journey and help children also be more socially active in a relatively isolated present. In this article, we will share the various people that could make up this village.
Multi-generation families may not be staying in one house, but usually relatives will still visit each other periodically or on special occasions and these visits form part of the village to help raise the child. The interactions we have with our relatives are different from the interactions we have with our friends or the interactions with strangers. This is where they would learn about certain customs and traditions that we hold in general or may be unique to each family. Interactions with relatives and extended family members help to build family values in them and help construct their idea of a family too. Extended family members can also be a good source of help. They can be a form of short-term help to relieve parental duties for a short period of time to take a breather. The various age groups in the extended family also mean that each individual brings in their own experience and beliefs and these different types of experiences will show when they are interacting with infants and preschoolers.
As most families rely on a dual income, school becomes a main part of this village from an early age. From as young as 2 months old, infants can be registered to an infant care centre. From there, they will transit to a childcare centre for toddlers at the age of 18 months and will continue to be there until primary school level. There is also an alternative option for those who are able to afford shorter hours at school for preschoolers. From age 4, kindergartens are also available for a period of 3 - 4 hours. Regardless of the duration at school, all the people within the school, teachers, non-teaching staff and other infants and preschoolers, make up one group of people who directly influence the development of infants and preschoolers. Teachers are also a resource for parents, as they work together for the good of the children. As the environment is specially designed for them, the physical environment of the school also has an impact on their development.
Social gatherings with friends can include your young ones too. Having children may result in time taken away from friends, so instead of excluding friends, we can instead include our infants and preschoolers. If your friends have children too, it can be a playdate for the children and a nice get-together for the parents. Friends may not be able to provide the same level of help and assistance that extended family and schools do but meeting up with them can be a stress reliever.
As a Chinese saying goes, having support from neighbours may be better than having a relative that is staying far away. While not all of us are lucky to have good relationships with neighbours, having one is truly a blessing. Children may also take up to neighbouring children more easily than we adults do and they can be a part of this village too. Neighbours may not necessarily be those staying directly beside you, it can also extend to those staying within the same neighbourhood or condominium. Most housing neighbourhoods or condominiums will have at least one playground for children to enjoy. The playground structure itself is a good place for them to hone their motor skills but this is also where they will meet and have interactions with other children and people in the neighbourhood and forge other types of bonds.
Taking a different form of the kampung spirit, various types of support groups for parents are available on various social media platforms and they cater to different types of family and parental needs. Sharing and learning from other people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences form part of the resources parents can gain in the development of our young toddlers and preschoolers. It is also a good avenue to share various physical resources or learn about new insights that are discovered as we continue to understand more about the development of children.
Community and country
Despite being a small place, we have many community resources to tap on too. The upcoming Children’s Museum is one such resource to tap on. While this museum is specifically targeted at children below the age of 12, there are other museums that have exhibitions suitable to host young children too. The emphasis on early childhood has not been placed heavily, but our community and country are also developing in ways to make the physical environment suited for the development of toddlers and preschoolers. Apart from that, there are also various financial support schemes for parents.
The village now may look different from what it was previously and may look different from what it would be in future. However, the understanding of this proverb will not change. As much as it is the parents’ main responsibility, people around all play a part in developing our young infants and toddlers. More importantly, parents do not need to feel all alone in this journey.
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