The Power of Community

We have missed each other. Returning to school has been an emotional time for all of us. The recent Lockdown measures meant we were all forced apart, wrenched from our community in school. The last three months have really shown us how much community matters.

Being involved in a community is beneficial in all areas of life. We certainly see the impact it has in school. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of the profound ways that it impacts our society is when we look at the benefits of community involvement in early childhood. Children grow emotionally, intellectually and physically through both their relationships and through their community. This might be in school or at home, on the playground or in the back garden.

For children, community involvement and engagement gives them a sense of belonging and is crucial to the building of their identity. The popular proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” gives a clear message that the whole community has an essential role to play in the growth and development of children. Community involvement sends a powerful message to children. It is one that says you are important. You are loved. You belong. And it is a message that, with it, holds the strength to empower every child. 

In an article for The Center on Evidence Based Practices for Early Learning at the University of Colorado in Denver, Gail E. Joseph, Ph.D., & Phillip S. Strain, Ph.D. state, “Building positive relationships with young children is an essential task and a foundational component of good teaching.” According to their research, children grow in the context of close and dependable relationships — relationships that provide love, security, nurture and meaningful interactions. With these types of relationships, children are more readily able to understand and cooperate.

In order for adults to build meaningful positive relationships with children,” they continue, “it is essential to gain a thorough understanding of children’s preferences, interests, background, and culture.”

When teachers work to build the relationship, it is as though they are “making a deposit” into the child’s relationship piggy bank. When an adult makes demands on or criticizes the child, it is as if they are making a relationship withdrawal. Depending on the child’s past experience with their relationship piggy bank, they may need more or less positive deposits in order to build the foundation of trust and love. And if this is the case, if a child has had more ‘negative’ deposits than ‘positive’ deposits, adults may find that these children demonstrate more challenging behaviour. They might be disruptive, aggressive and difficult to deal with which may cause the adult to get angry, nag or raise their voice.

A positive sense of self is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.” It helps them “develop into happy, productive people.” (www.parents.com)

Children with high self-esteem and a positive self-image feel capable, accepted and encouraged. Providing choices helps children feel empowered. By implementing the power of decision making early on, children will be more able and prepared to face more difficult choices later in life. We all make mistakes. We all learn. We all grow. In fact, that is one of life’s greatest pleasures, watching ourselves change and become who we want to be. When a child makes a mistake, we must try not to react with disappointment. Instead we must ask, “How can I help them grow from this?”

If we support at the community level for our children, we are working to give them the foundation for a better future. Children are gifted the opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve greatness and happiness through their community.

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African Proverb)