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3 Things to Consider While Creating a Community For Your Kids

You’ve probably heard of helicopter parenting: parents who hover everywhere their kids go, never really letting them out of sight.

We certainly live in a world where this seems like our only option.

Between news headlines and movies that tell stories of what when wrong when kids were left unattended, it only makes sense to build fortresses that keep kids in, or to personally go everywhere with them when they’re out.

(Suddenly the story of Rapunzel makes a little more sense, doesn’t it?)

We have other options, though.

Some parents practice “free range parenting,” letting kids roam about unattended in order to build decision-making skills and self-confidence through exploration.

But that may not be a practice for everyone, especially with all the brokenness and danger in the world.

What if there was a compromise between the two? A kind of “co-op parenting?”

You live near and know others who you would likely trust to take care of your child. These might be your go-to babysitters when you need a night out, or neighbors that you’ve spent time getting to know over the years.

What if you allowed your kids to be out of your sight among such people in order for you to raise your children up in an extended, yet trusted, community?

Helicopter parenting can be exhausting. Free-range parenting can be dangerous.

Co-op parenting provides some stretchy risk along with shared responsibility.

As you consider it, here are three things to guide you:

3 Things to Consider While Creating a Community For Your Kids

  1. Start with a short list: Find other households who live by similar core values and are willing to invest in your kids. Invite those parents to likewise feel comfortable sending their kids over to your home. You’re not looking to do this with strangers, but people you already know. Some situations will play out better if you take part in the first visit or two, allowing you to then later give your kids tips on appropriate choices they can make in that home or yard when you’re not around. Form these friendships wisely, for you are seeking friendships with people who will help form your kid.
  2. Filter excitement: Your kids will at times be enamored by other households or people who feel exciting to be around. Some of these people will be great, and others my not. Offer your kids guidance for evaluating new relationships so that they can learn to discern the difference for themselves. For example, "An older friend or mentor won't tempt you or let you become a bad version of yourself," or "We can appreciate how good someone is at something, but that doesn’t mean we should spend a lot of time around that person.” Don't budge on these values, especially if your kids look up to others you suspect will have a negative influence. When you do find mentors who fit within these values, affirm them out loud. For example, “I like you hanging out with [mentor's name] because they seem to add to your character and faith."
  3. Stay hands-on: Talk with your kids about what they're experiencing relationally in order to pick up on any healthy or unhealthy signals. For example, safe situations tend to involve other adults who keep an eye on your kids, let them be themselves, and have them call home before eating or doing something you might find questionable. Unhealthy situations might be homes where random anger, yelling, and teasing happen that leave your kids in tears. The bottom line is to not ignore your instincts when it comes to danger, but to likewise let yourself stretch on simple differences (i.e. what they eat for dinner) so your co-op community can grow.
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