“It Takes A Village”
Do you think your kids’ teachers are responsible for helping “raise” your kids? How much involvement do you want your teachers to have in helping your kids learn about being a good person, or respect, or independence, or compassion? What about your kids’ counselors? What about your own therapist? These are questions both parents and teachers ask themselves and can also lead to some issues. Teachers debate these questions because they already have a lot to teach their students and aren’t sure if it’s their responsibility. Other teachers believe they do have a responsibility to support their students to develop character and morals because students spend so much time in the classroom environment. Parents also debate it because while some parents may value what teachers have to offer, others feel it’s the responsibility of teachers to support in raising their children. Additionally, it’s difficult to put your trust in a stranger to raise your child, especially if you’re unsure of the person’s beliefs, values, or their character themselves.
As a culture, people in the United States struggle with asking for help as it is. Asking for help with your kid is almost a taboo – a sign you’re not doing “enough”, not a good enough parent, or failing as a parent. If you’ve read any of the blogs I’ve written before, I’ve talked about the difference between the United States values of individualism versus the value that other cultures place on collectivism and the power of groups. If you’re interested in learning more about this, I found a video that sums it up nicely.
Related to these ideas, what I’d like to offer below is a different perspective on parenting and asking for help. I included an article I found to be pretty interesting on different parenting practices around the world. One of these practices is the concept of collective parenting.
Essentially, collective parenting means that extended families and friends and neighbors are involved in raising their children. According to the article, this is apparently where the phrase “it takes a village” came from. While we could focus on some of the potential issues or concerns of this practice, I also think it’s important to recognize how beautiful it is to be able to ask others to help you with taking care of your child, and how fortunate that child is to have multiple people to turn to for affection, care, and different ways of being in the world.
From my own experience, I know how beneficial it is to have a team of people to support you. My grandparents, aunts, and friend’s parents helped to raise me and for some of my teenage years, my friend’s parents were more influential and impactful on me than my own family. Looking back, I’m filled with gratitude because I had multiple families I could turn to for support, guidance, a place to rest my head, and lots of diverse holiday and celebratory traditions. Likewise, my teachers were essential to my growth and the person I became. My second-grade teachers taught me how to trust adults and taught me the importance of respecting others. I learned kindness from my fourth-grade teacher, and she sparked my passion for learning. From my seventh-grade teacher, I learned about grief and loss. My eight grade teachers taught me about resilience in the face of challenges and really helped me appreciate how smart I was. My high school teachers taught me all kinds of things, from the power of literature, writing, and how to find my voice, to loving others and practicing compassion even when it’s difficult to do.
I don’t think it’s possible for teachers not to impact their students. As an educator myself, I see this as my responsibility. I don’t want to just teach students the content and skills they need to succeed, I also want to teach my students how to be kind, how to respect one another, how to be compassionate and empathetic. I want to teach them the value of diverse perspectives and the value of learning itself. I want to teach my students it’s okay to make mistakes and accountability is important. More than anything, I want my students to view me as a person they can turn to when they have questions, need to vent, or when life is really hard, and they need support. I want my students to be able to ask for help when they need it and realize they don’t have to do everything on their own, just like parents don’t need to do everything on their own.
The same can be said for my role as a counselor. I see myself as a guide. I’m not the expert on any of my clients’ lives, however, I am an expert in mental health and this sometimes means teaching my clients about mental health issues because that’s the type of knowledge I can offer. We need help from people to navigate things throughout our lives, especially when those people are experts and can offer a lot of insight and new perspectives. I love being surrounded by people with a wealth of information that I can lean on in difficult times.
For the parents reading this, I encourage you to try out a version of collective parenting that feels right for you. Maybe this means asking more family members, friends, or neighbors for support. Or maybe you develop some kind of relationship with your kids’ teachers and have conversations with your kids about what they’re learning from their teachers (besides math, science, and reading). Likewise, ask the teachers you trust for help when needed. You shouldn’t be expected to go at raising your kid alone.