A woman I know told me about an amazing asset she had as she was growing up – her parents’ gang. Her mum and dad had a great bunch of friends. Every summer they would all take their caravans away to a beach and camp together, and she said that those times were just the best holidays. She said that not only was it great having a bunch of playmates of about the same age,  it was also fantastic having that network of de facto uncles and aunties who were very much part of her family. She rated it as an incredible treasure in her life to grow up feeling like she was part of that community, and they are still all in touch with each other decades later.

There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child – a community of good adults influencing and protecting and mentoring our kids. There are so many benefits for their welfare, education and safety. During puberty, good adult role models play such an important part in helping young people make the leap into healthy adulthood. But I think that our communities today are too small – often not much more than our immediate family and the professionals at child care and schools. Many of us do not even know our immediate neighbours, let alone families further down the street. Maybe it is because we relocate so often  – every six years on average, I remember being told – and so we don’t form ties with our communities. It could be that we get so focused on doing good things for our kids that we just don’t have time to do something which is actually excellent for our kids, and that is, getting into communities.

Can I urge you, for the sake of your kids, to look outwards a bit more, to overcome your shyness and join in with groups that already exist or take the plunge and invite others to join you in some venture. School communities, churches, hobby and craft groups, community service organisations – there are all sorts of things that will benefit you and your family. And, with summer coming up, why not pick a family you like, and make plans for a camping adventure together.

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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