Who Will You Invite to Your Child's Wedding?
by Jennifer Watanabe, PCI Certified Parent Coach®
A few years from now, your child may be getting married. As traditions go, each side of the wedding party gets to invite close family and friends to the big celebration. Who will you be celebrating with? Who will care about your child's happy event?
Who do you know now who will be there with your family to celebrate life's joys in the years ahead: a child's birthday, a graduation, a special achievement, the birth of a new child?
What about the sadness? Who can you call on in the event of a job loss, financial hardship, serious illness or death?
While our children are still young, you can build, develop and sustain friendships with other families and caring adults who will be an important part of your child's life.
M. Scott Peck in his The Road Less Traveled series says building friendships is our way of building "intentional community." The idea of having reciprocal relationships between caring adults is one where children and adults benefit.
When parents have parent-to-parent support, they are less isolated. The less isolated parents feel, the more likely they will know they are not alone. Many of our parenting challenges ease with the comfort of knowing other parents are going through the same trying experiences.
In many metropolitan areas across the country, many parents don't have the benefit of extended family near by. The merit of having adult friends who share values and experiences becomes even more important for parents.
It is also true for children. They need others, besides their parents, to care for them. There is much research to substantiate this premise.
Search Institute, a non-profit research institute, in Minnesota, has identified 40 Developmental Assets in their book What Young Children Need to Succeed. These fundamental building blocks can be viewed by visiting this Web page that identifies assets needed for early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence.
One of the 40 assets important to children's lives is:
"Other adult relationships: Parents have support from three or more adults and ask for help when needed. Children receive additional love and comfort from at least one adult other than their parents."
One benefit for young people of having caring adults in their lives is that it fosters a sense of security. The young person will know that people care about him or her.
Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a child and adult psychiatrist, father of three and a Harvard Medical School instructor has written a book titled, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. He defines "happiness as the feeling that your life is going well." He has found that feeling connected is one necessary component that all people need to be happy. Connectedness occurs with parents, family, friends, neighborhood and community, what Hallowell calls the "team." And, when children feel connected, they are more likely to be achieving. He also says that:
- In one study, adolescents who said they feel "connected." showed the "lowest levels of depression, the highest level of confidence about the future, the lowest levels of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, and the highest self-esteem." Those who said they did not feel "connected" showed the "highest levels of depression, drug use, pessimism, and low self-esteem."
- Being connected at home and at school are the two factors that most protect children from negative outcomes.
- "Parents need connections, too. Never worry alone. Having someone to talk with about a parenting problem makes the problem seem smaller and more solvable."
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an article about Hallowell's work in October of 2002. The article characterized the importance of connectedness as the "Miracle-Gro" of happiness.
Creating a community for your children takes repeated contact through the years. By valuing the importance of community when your children are young, you can create a world where other people will know and care about your children. And you can do the same for someone else's children. The more webs of community and support we create for our children, the more likely all children will lead more successful and happier lives.
So, who do you know now who will dance with joy at your child's wedding?
Jennifer Watanabe, PCI Certified Parent Coach®, has been teaching parent education at a local community college for over ten years. She and her husband are raising two boys ages 11 and 14 years. Jennifer has a private practice working as a certified parent coach. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.parentcoachingbridge.com.
Copyright 2008 by Jennifer Watanabe. Used with permission.