Parenting can be a weird paradox of both loneliness and togetherness all at the same time. When you have children, you add another person to your life that you will obviously be spending a lot of time with, thus seemingly increasing your immediate “community.” Yet oftentimes, parents soon tend to feel isolated from the rest of the world because so much of their time and attention that was available for others around them has now shifted focus onto their new child.
To combat this feeling of isolation from creeping in, it is important to have a community that can offer support and encouragement. This community may look different for different families, but the purpose of each community is the same: to offer a place where you can connect with others.
When looking to build a community for both parents and children, it is important to be flexible, intentional, and consistent.
Flexibility is vital when it comes to raising children because each day may look different than the last. Schedules and routines are great, but they are not always going to be able to be adhered to. Nap schedules may get messed up, clothes may get dirty, children may get sick. The list of things that can ruin your routine is endless. However, each new day also has the potential for new adventure and new memories. Give yourself grace in the moments when your carefully planned out day faces a bump in the road and use that opportunity to try something different. Being flexible will allow you to open up and step outside of your own routine in order to find more community.
While flexibility is important in raising children, intentionality is also key. Your time and energy are sacred, and therefore they should not be spent carelessly. You may not be able to join every group or attend every event or see every person. Instead, choose wisely when it comes to community. Figure out what you and your family needs, and then find a community that best fits those needs. Being intentional while building your community will help ensure that your community develops into something that will benefit you with connection and support rather than potentially burden you with time commitments and social fatigue.
Consistency and flexibility may seem like opposites to you, but they can both exist when it comes to building community. Allow yourself the grace to be flexible when it comes to your schedule, knowing that we will have to bend our lives when unexpected things come up. But you should also strive for consistency when it comes to building a community in order to get the most out of that community. Consistency is important when building and breaking habits, and the same goes for building community. Community can be something that is short term or long term in our lives, and each type is good and valuable depending on our season of life. For example, the need for support while sick or injured may be a short term season, but the desire for your children to make lifelong friends will require more consistency within your community.
Here are some simple ways parents can integrate themselves and their children into their community and neighborhood.
Reach Out to Friends and Family
For many, starting with support from the people you know will likely be your first step. Reaching out to friends and family may feel more comfortable since there is already an established relationship and level of comfort there. At first, it may be easier to be more vulnerable with friends and family than with a group of new people. Finding someone – even if it truly is just one person – who you can truly open up to about the type of support you need can be the foundation you need to build a community for your family.
Build an Online Community
The irony of the world around us right now is that through social media we can feel totally connected to people through our phones, even though we are sitting in a room alone. Because of this, social media can be a great stepping stone when it comes to finding a community. Whether it is a simple text to a mom-friend asking questions you need answers to or starting a group message of several moms to just encourage each other and check in, text messaging can be a great community that is at the convenience of your fingertips. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have accounts and groups you can follow or join to find easy online community as well. An online community can be good for families who may have extenuating circumstances that keep them more indoors, or for families who simply find themselves a bit busy and tired and can only squeeze in a few minutes of socializing here and there. While an online community is a great option, you may come to realize that finding in-person interactions can be longer lasting and create more meaningful connections.
It may seem too easy of a suggestion, but simply getting outside is a good way to build community around you. A quick walk around your neighborhood is likely to allow you to meet more of your neighbors. Chances are a few of them will even be in the same stage of life as you and your family. If you see someone else pushing a stroller, stop and say hello. Exchange numbers and suggest walking together next time. Taking your family to a local park is another good way to spend time together in nature and meet people. If your family enjoys spending time outdoors and so does frequently, then there is a very likely chance you will start seeing others families who enjoy doing the same. Sooner or later, you may find yourself doing things together with those you meet in your neighborhood or at the park. Walking and hiking as well as playgrounds and sports fields will not only provide you and your family with healthy habits, but they may also help you find your new best friends. Our Pop N’ Go Playpens or California Voyager Blankets would be great for a day at the park.
Join a Group
If being outdoors isn’t the ideal way to spend your time, then finding and joining a group that aligns more with your family might be the right move. Whether it is purely based on interests or more based on needs, there is bound to be a group that meets near you. For example, new moms who are nursing may look for breastfeeding or lactation classes. Joining a community group is also a good opportunity for each member of the family to get individual support that they may need. Fathers may join a neighborhood dads group where they meet once a month to play poker or go to a baseball game. Or the adults of the family may join their own book clubs where they can expand their own literary horizons beyond the children’s literature that they may feel surrounded by. Or maybe the whole family can get involved in a sports group. If the perfect community group doesn’t already exist for you and your family, you might consider starting one!
Attend an Event or Class
If committing to a group that meets regularly maybe feels like too much of a commitment for you, then try attending an event or a class. Most churches or local libraries will host free events throughout the year. Libraries often offer events such as story times, book clubs, craft sessions, movie nights, theatrical performances, concerts, and more. You might also be able to find learning opportunities like computer classes for technology support or educational classes like tutoring that your family might benefit from. Churches will offer similar options with a special spiritual element added to them. Week-long vacation Bible schools in the summer or weekly Bible studies throughout the year are only the beginning of the type of community events you can find at churches. Churches are also great at offering a community of emotional support through classes like marriage counseling, parenting groups, grief support, and more.
Volunteer at a Local Charity
Finally, one of the best ways to build a community with your family is to participate in giving back to your community. Volunteering at a local charity can be a mutually beneficial act. Not only will you help to better the world around you, but you will also subsequently practice raising your children in the spirit of service. By serving others, you can stand alongside people who have similar values as you. Raising children alongside people who value community service will hopefully have long term effects that can extend from generation to generation. And just in case you decide to volunteer at your local animal shelter and end up adopting a pet, we can help you out there too with our Playpen for Pets.
Intentionally building a community for you and your family is vital in terms of receiving the interactions and support you all need. While getting involved may seem daunting at first, the benefits highly outweigh the negatives. You may have to spend a little more time and energy at first, but the support and encouragement you can find through community is priceless. A strong sense of community is a resource that can help families through the highs and lows of life. So whether you are looking for a community that is relational, social, physical, creative, educational, spiritual, or something else, there is connection and support out there waiting for you.