Different types of connection with different communities have multiple benefits for all of us, and when we help our kids foster their connections with their communities, it can help with their socio-emotional development, their confidence, and can also help them to develop more friendships. When we think about our kids’ communities, they often extend beyond family and the inner circle to include the street and neighbourhood where they live and activities in which they are regularly engaged in, including school and extra curricular hobbies/endeavors. When children and youth participate as part of a community, they:
- feel a sense of identity, value, and belonging;
- learn about cooperation and getting along with others;
- understand whom to go to when they need support;
- expose themselves to a myriad of diverse life experiences – cultural, professional, personalities, activities, skills, jobs, foods, etc. which help them to promote flexible thinking and acceptance of others.
And, like having a positive inner circle, feeling a sense of belonging to community will strengthen our kids’ abilities to manage stress and problem solve. Below are some suggestions to support Mind, Body, and Spirit in promoting community involvement for children and youth.
In order to help develop our kids connection with their communities, it is helpful to first take stock of the communities that they are currently involved in, and also explore their interests – is there something else that they would like to become involved with that is feasible? When we are conscious of our kids involvement in their communities we can actively help develop their positive connections. Here are a few things we can be mindful of to help with that:
- Know your kids’ communities.Taking the time to know the other adults and kids involved in the community that our kids participate in will not only foster a closer connection with our kids, it will also give us comfort and trust that the other adults have our kids best interests at heart.
- Role modeling positive social skills in the community – from simply greeting others, smiling, and saying please and thank you to others, we can demonstrate ways for our kids to comfortably engage with others.
- Taking time to help others will improve your kids understanding that being a part of a community means some level of give & take, and that giving helps you build stronger connections.
- Become a supportive part of your kids’ communities. Be it from the side-lines cheering them on, or helping them set up a lemonade stand, being with our kids can help them feel safe and confident. If you don’t have time to get involved physically, try simply talking to your children about their activities and community involvement. Demonstrating that you value and take an interest in their hobbies helps them feel valued.
- Talk and practice active listening. Talk to the kids in your life and communities about their interests and listen with patience to what they are saying. Giving space for kids to express themselves without being regularly ‘corrected’ will help them to feel more relaxed to become more open with their feelings.
- Catch the positive and express gratitude! Don’t forget to catch them in the act of doing things that we support and acknowledge the positive. Our kids hear a lot about what they do wrong, but regularly telling them what we see them do well/right will encourage more of the good stuff.
I had a fun game of hide-and-go-seek with a group of kids on my street recently. It was so much fun for both me and the kids, and it gave the other adults a chance to connect in with each other while their kids were otherwise engaged. I have great memories of street-wide water fights with my son too, and look forward to getting the chance to have that fun with my community soon. Or maybe a walk or bike-ride to a local park or trail is more your speed. Being out together in the community together will strengthen the connection with the community and provide opportunities to make new friends.
During this Covid crisis, my community has done so many lovely and uplifting things that connect us – perhaps one or two of these things will resonate for you and your kids. At 7:30 pm each day, a number of households can be found in front of their homes clanging pots and communing. We are gifted by the guitar playing of one of our neighbours on his front porch, and join together singing along to some favourites – Canadian classics by the Hip & Neil Young, accented by “I get by with a little help from my friends”! I also love to walk around the streets and see the beautiful messages, sidewalk and window art. Such little gestures can recharge our spirits and indeed, #SpreadTheLove.
Children: A cute video on ideas to make the world better.
Youth: A good video explaining why it’s important for children to volunteer
Teachers/Educators: Shout outs are a great way to help foster positivity and community in the classroom.
Caregivers/Parents: Activities for families to help promote and create a sense of community
Don’t forget about our special family-friendly social media experiment to #SpreadTheLove #MylesAhead:
i. Paint a heart on a rock of your choosing. ii. Write #SpreadTheLove #MylesAhead iii. Place it in someone’s garden, or in a public space for others to see. iv. Take a picture. Share it on social media with your location. Remember to tag us and use the hashtags #SpreadTheLove #MylesAhead!