The “village” isn’t just for the children.

We all know that it “takes a village” to raise a child. When a child grows up surrounded by a wide net of positive influence and support, from family and friends to the larger community, they are likely to experience success. What we don’t talk about often enough, however, is the importance of that wide net of support for the parents.

 It’s hard to raise a child. It becomes even harder when, as a parent, you are isolated. Maybe you moved to a new town where you don’t yet have a network of friends established. Maybe you live in a location that is geographically isolating. Or maybe you had a falling out with people in your life, and you are hesitant to reach out to them for help. No matter the reason, when you are alone, the stresses of parenting can feel overwhelming, and overcoming obstacles can be that much harder.

There are so many questions that arise for parents, especially first-time parents.

What are the best diapers? When should I call the doctor?
How do I get my baby to stop crying?

It’s comforting when you have trusted friends or family members you can call on for advice. Relying on the people in your life who have done this before and can lend a supportive ear can be uplifting and can help you feel that you are not alone. Interacting with no one other than a toddler all day can be challenging, so when a community of parents can come together to share experiences, swap stories, and offer help and support, it builds the parents’ capacity to manage stress, strengthens confidence in parenting skills, and ultimately benefits the health and well-being of the children.

Beyond the need for parenting support, having a group of friends who you can let your hair down and have fun with relieves stress and can lead to a more balanced life. It’s important for parents to take time for themselves, practice self-care, and have some “adult time” when possible. This might mean having a friend over for coffee, where the children play while the adults catch up. It might look like a group of friends that regularly get together while one friend watches all the kids. It might even be as simple as taking a trip to the grocery store together. Social interaction doesn’t have to be complicated, or costly. Even a phone call can go a long way in letting another parent know that they can count on you for support.

So, what should you do if you don’t already have an established network of friends? Try to get to know other parents at your child’s childcare center or school, look for a parent education class or support group in your area, or organize a get together for families in your neighborhood. It’s not always easy to make new friends, but the good news is, you most likely already have something in common: you want to be great parents. Build on that!

Forming and maintaining these valuable relationships will benefit the entire family in the long run, giving parents the support they need and providing children with a positive network of adults they can trust and lean on throughout their lives.

Have questions about parenting call our 27/7 Parent Helpline 1 (800) 356-6767

 

The Power of a Parent's Voice

The journey of parenthood can be a rocky, yet rewarding, road. As a young mother, I was ready for the late night feedings, the crying, the poop (!), and of course the deep love for my children. What I never expected though, was the strength it would take to overcome the tough situations that seemed out of my control. During one very trying time with my family, I knew that I wanted to speak up and be an advocate for my children and for others, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how I could make my voice heard amongst all the others. After all, I wasn’t the only mom who wanted to make sure her children were protected. I wasn’t the only parent who was trying to get others’ attention for my cause. I wasn’t the only citizen who was trying to get my community leaders to listen.

It turns out the voice that I was so unsure of, the voice that I knew no one could hear, was being heard, and it was then that Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee asked me to join a parent group where my voice could be amplified, and my ideas would matter. They saw something in me that I did not: a Parent Leader. I began to get more involved in the community, joining a local advisory board, becoming a member of the Community Based Child Abuse Prevention Advisory Council, and serving on the Alliance National Parent Partnership Council. It was amazing to be a part of the conversation around protecting children and empowering other parents, but what was even more amazing was the way my experiences helped strengthen my family and made me a better parent. I gained self-esteem and was provided with so many opportunities for growth and a stronger sense of personal power.

While my journey led me to a more formal role as a parent leader, I never forget that every parent has the ability to be a leader, an advocate, a voice for their children. Every day, parents and caregivers make decisions on behalf of their children that can positively impact their future. Choosing quality childcare, making time to talk with school administrators to make sure children’s educational needs are being met, working within your community to have a safe place for children to play are all examples of parents as advocates and leaders.

I’ve been given the privilege to work with a team of Parent Leaders through Parent Partnership TN, and they are doing amazing work in their communities across the state. These are just a few examples of the ways the team is bringing about positive changes in their communities:

Anthony and Anntoinette Johnson live in Shelby County, TN and have four children. They have recently begun teaching PATH classes on how to become foster parents.

Jenny Williams is a mother of two grown children, one who is deaf, and is widely credited with building the capacity of middle and high schools to provide educational services for deaf children and teens in West Tennessee.  In 2016, she received the Governor’s Award of Excellence from Governor Bill Haslam for her work as an advocate for children.

Beth Stodghill serves on the Tennessee Children’s Justice Task Force and has done tremendous work around Erin’s Law and its implementation in school systems, educating parents about how to navigate their local school boards and how to speak on behalf of other parents and families in the community. 

Ruth Gomez, Gladyn Minzey, and Alicia Pittman host Community Cafés, bringing parents and caregivers together to build leadership skills and provide support to one another.

I believe that parents truly want what’s best for their children, and will do everything in their power to make that happen. You might not realize it, but every time you make a decision that positively impacts your child’s life, you are an advocate. Every time you speak up when your or any other child has been wronged, you are an advocate. Every time you gather a group of parents to discuss an issue that your neighborhood is facing, you are an advocate.

February is National Parent Leadership Month, and throughout the month, Parent Partnership TN is recognizing parents across Tennessee who are the “Unsung Heroes” in their communities. These parents exhibit resilience, persistence, empathy, and support for their children and for other parents. The Unsung Heroes are shining examples of what it means to be parent leaders, no matter what role they take on, formal or informal. When parents use their voices to effect change, communities become stronger, families become more connected, and children’s lives are positively impacted.

As a parent who once was so overwhelmed, I now know the power of my voice, and I will use it as long as I can to empower other parents and encourage them to speak up, speak out, and never stop believing that together we can make Tennessee a safe, supportive, loving place for children to grow up.

Are you ready to realize the power of your voice? Do you want to become more involved in your community as an advocate for children and families? Parent Partnership TN is looking for parents, grandparents, foster parents, or anyone in a parenting role to join our team of Parent Leaders! We all have a voice, and we are here to help yours be heard. Visit pcat.org/advocacy-education to learn more about Parent Partnership TN and request information.