By Emily Singleton
It takes a village to raise a child, but most of us don’t even know our next door neighbors—much less have any idea how to be a part of supporting them in raising their family. Home visitation programs in the Parent Partners Plus network, funded by First Things First, help families every day with the challenges they face, but they cannot do it alone. Social service providers need the whole community involved in supporting the caregivers who are raising the next generation. There are many ways individuals of all ages and stages of life can help create those “villages” in which young children thrive.
However you decide to help in your community, think LEAN – Listening. Empathy. Affirmation. Non-judgment.Parents have a hard job and they are doing the best they can. Listen to their story and normalize asking for help by sharing times when you have needed help. Honor the work parents do and be on the lookout for small ways you can cheer them on.
Here are some ways neighbors can help support families with young children and build community.
Checking in with neighbors
Offering to pick up groceries or run to the store for them. Getting out of the house can be a challenge for any parents with young children. Now with COVID-19 precautions, simply going to the grocery store can seem like a Herculean task for parents. Next time you are going to the store, offer to pick up some supplies or a ready-made meal for your neighbor – it could make their day!
Picking up garbage in your community or local park
As you enjoy the outdoors, dispose of your own garbage and safely pick up some extra pieces of trash on the ground to help out parents with littles ones who might see that rusty can as something to play with and explore with their mouth.
Donations to local food pantries
Many families with young children have lost jobs or had a parent leave the workforce due to the pandemic. Supporting local food pantries with cash or food donations (usually tax deductible) helps your neighbors who have fallen on hard times. The Arizona Food Bank Network (azfoodbanks.org) can help you find a local food bank if you need help or would like to donate.
Little free libraries
If you would like to use your front yard or business to build community and help little ones become interested in reading, consider setting up a little free library as a place for neighbors to share books among themselves. Organizations such as Southwest Human Development can help you get started!
It will take some work, but through our everyday actions, we can move our communities closer to the proverbial “village” environment needed to help the next generation grow and flourish.
Emily Singleton is the Parent Partners Plus senior program manager at Southwest Human Development. To learn more about free programs in the community for yourself or your neighbors with young children, visit parentpartnersplus.com.