You’ve probably heard that ‘it takes a village to raise a child. However, for many parents, there is no built-in village at their fingertips to rely on for guidance and assistance with day-to-day parent life. In fact, recent studies show that around one-third of parents experience feelings of isolation—and that lack of a support network may be a major barrier to the well-being of their families.
If you find yourself village-less, don’t panic. While building a healthy support system for your family may seem daunting, it’s well worth the effort, as long as you keep in mind, everyone's tribe will look different. For some, it may be made up of mostly extended family and close friends. Others will include family-friendly programs and agencies. Whatever the make-up, it’s sure to be one of the most valuable treasures you can have to ensure your family thrives.
Here are some tips for creating a community of support while juggling all that goes along with being a parent.
Call on family and friends. The best place to start is with your existing family and friends. While some parents might resist going to those closest to them because it can be difficult to admit our struggles to those we love and respect, asking grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins for help can make is usually the safest, most cost-effective and love-infused way to build your support structure. They’re your family and that means they should have your back, just like you’ll have theirs when they call on you. Besides the obvious advantages, keeping your family and friends in the top spot of your support structure also builds that skill in your children and ensures that the family unit – whatever it is made of – continues generationally.
Friends are another great place to seek help. Think about one or two friends in your life that you trust and reach out to them. If your friend circle is small, consider expanding your friend group by joining a local parents group or attending a family-friendly community event, like a church potluck or arts and crafts day at your local Miami-Dade County Public Library branch. Programs such as The Children’s Trust Parent’s Cluboffering free countywide 60-minute parenting workshops on a variety of topics about raising children are a great option when seeking to expand your network. Not only do these workshops include free child care for the hour, it’s also a great way to spark new friendships amongst other parents.
Find programs that support. There are times when family or current friends just aren’t an option and you really have to build your village from scratch. When this is the case, consider seeking out local organizations, services and programs designed to support families who are in need of support.
Miami-Dade County parents can count on The Children’s Trust, which provides funding for programming, resources and information for all families in the county. Created in 2002, The Trust celebrated its 20th Anniversary of providing that support last year, and its impact on families has never been greater.
For parents with preschoolers, The Trust invests heavily in early childhood development, including in health, physical, cognitive, social-emotional and different approaches to learning. Child scholarships for high-quality early learning are made available through The Trust’s Thrive by 5 initiative.
Parents can also count on The Trust for after-school and summer programming when they’re in need of child care during those gap hours between a child’s last bell and the end of the work day. A Harvard study suggests that children involved in after-school programs show greater academic success and are less likely to engage in a host of inappropriate behaviors. Visit The Children’s Trust website for information on those programs throughout the year.
The health of their children is always the foremost concern of parents, but finding affordable health care can prove difficult. To provide support for these parents, The Children’s Trust funds school health clinics in 145 public school sites that offer basic services and referrals. The Trust also funds community health centers in underserved areas with a high number of uninsured or underinsured children, and mobile health and injury prevention units that travel throughout the county.
Look for government assistance. Every family goes through hardships at some point, whether it’s financial, emotional or otherwise. If parents find themselves experiencing difficulty, it’s reassuring to know there is government-funded assistance, if you know where to look.
Here are some benefits programs parents should know about:
• Special Supplemental Nutrition Program to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
• Florida Food Assistance Program/ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
• KidCare (Florida’s Children’s Health Insurance Program)
• College Access Resources
• Children with Disabilities