Our family had an eye-opening experience this past weekend. We were able to go to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC where they have this new exhibit all about the senses. It was a fascinating display of how we all perceive things differently with our internal senses (cold, hunger, etc) and external senses (sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste).
I took a picture early in the exhibit where the lights were changing from blue to red to green and back. With each color certain things were visible and invisible on the walls. But behind me a little phrase was plastered on the wall declaring:
“What you see depends on the light.”
Later I looked at the picture it and it triggered something in me about the loss of having a village to help parent our kids.
All of life varies based on our perception on the “lenses” we wear. The different spectrums of light can reveal things unseen in the others. So for life, sometimes the “light” is external, like how as parents we can be an encouragement to our kids. Sometimes it’s internal like our faith. And all the time we have to make sure that our kids are viewing their life with the light that reflects them best.
How to make sure the parenting village is not a lost art
I encourage you to be a light and be the village to kids that aren’t yours, but also allow your children to be encouraged by other adults in your community. Seek out those opportunities by going to the library at the same time and day each week or find other ways to build relationships that matter. Because we all have different lights to reveal the good in those around us.
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Find a way to positively encourage kids in your neighborhood, community, and even while out and about
What I realized from the light exhibit was that if multiple people are in the lives of our kids, ALL LIGHTS, they are all building up our children in different ways…positive body image, growth mindset, no fear to fail, self worth, a love of learning, and more. As adults we need to be the lights of kids that aren’t even ours. Maybe their teachers are “red light” and maybe parents are “green” and then you could provide that blue perspective they don’t have.
We have fallen away from talking to children that aren’t ours, but what if we intentionally looked for something positive in kids all around us every day? Even a stranger, we can express how vibrant a child’s smile is and maybe it makes all the different for them because they thought they had crooked teeth.
Your comments absolutely matter and they’re such a small nod to creating a larger village.
Allow for vulernability & be receptive in the moment for both kids AND their parents
In the process of not just wanting friends, but also needing friends and needing help, our family learned the true secret to finding a village. We learned to be vulnerable.
Suddenly instead of trying to show everyone our highlight reel or only give bits and pieces of our daily struggles, we began freely sharing the burdens associated with raising kids, with owning our home, with simply living and being human. In response to such human vulnerability was compassion, a desire to help, and a genuine friendship extended.
It took not being afraid to approach hard topics to find people that were truly willing to do life together with us. It was difficult at first but if we remember to both allow for others to be vulnerable with us and show our own human side, we’re more likely to help bear each other burdens with grace.
I remember pouring myself out to someone I thought was a friend discussing some of my hardest moments only to get shrugged off, belittled, and cast aside. But over time, I got better at sharing those tough topics and I became more aware of who was receptive and who was not. I got better at sharing, but not over-sharing as to run people off feeling burdened.
Because it’s a delicate balance.
I told people that I probably barely knew some of my inmost thoughts and feelings, something I would have never done before. But sometimes the strongest ties and best of friendship have come from not sugar coating my life even with the women that I didn’t really know. And in turn it’s benefitted my whole family because vulernability lead to my kids receiving the village they needed too.
Model consequences over punishment for your kids’ friends
One of the best things we can for our kids and their friends is to walk alongside them in their needs and struggles and always model natural consequences over punishment.
This opens a door for safe communication and ultimately allows kids to know there’s a haven in your home. The village is about opening relationships, not closing them off.
Many times when kids come to us (that aren’t our own children) it’s because they feel like they can confide in us and feel like they can’t share with their own parents.
Need some extra help with tough parenting moments both with your kids and other kids?
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!