“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” ~ African proverb
A child lost and abandoned by their community will destroy it in order to get the attention and connection they need.
While it’s easy to understand how this happens in theory, it’s harder for society to avoid this outcome in reality.
Perhaps this is true because most people’s instinct is to blame the young people for their perceived bad behavior instead of recognizing how their community has failed them. For example, youth who show delinquent behaviors are almost always troubled young people who don’t have enough connection in their lives or who have suffered past traumas.
Perhaps their families are dysfunctional or abusive. Or maybe they’re suffering from mental illness and no one has helped them get treatment. Or maybe they’re exhausted, chronically stressed, and anxious due to living in poverty.
Connection to a community is vital for the healthy development of children. The school environment is often one of the most important indicators of discontent. Is the child skipping school? If so, a support system could help.
Children who live in dysfunctional homes may feel disconnected. For example, a parent may use drugs or suffer from alcoholism which can lead to neglect and other negative dynamics in the home. Problems at home can quickly turn into problems at school.
Another difficult area for children is poverty. Being poor is very stressful. From moving around from house to house or shelter to shelter, to not having enough to eat, and missing out on health services, poverty affects children significantly.
We can all help children feel connected. Each of us can play a part in sharing our lives with the children around us. Encourage children to pursue their interests. A child who is engaged and busy is a happy, connected child. Educate rather than punish children. Rather than punishing a misbehaving child, invite the child to spend time with you. Take time to encourage them, or invite them to help you around the house. When misbehavior is met with closeness, children feel connected again, instead of isolated.
Sharing life skills can help children connect with others as they grow. For youth, knowing how to interact in community spaces such as a job, community center, or the library increases the chances of their success as adults. Teach them grace and courtesy. Invite them to take responsibility in keeping their environment tidy.
A little bit of effort can go a long way in giving children a sense of belonging.
For tips on parenting, please visit strategiesforparents.com.