Building a Village to Support Your Child’s Development

I am sure you have heard that “a parent is a child’s first teacher” and the old proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Both are correct!!

By Anne E. Mead, Ed. D.

I am sure you have heard that “a parent is a child’s first teacher” and the old proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Both are correct!! What does each statement mean and how can they become a way of life for families supporting their children’s education? As a child enters the world, you provide their first experiences on the way to becoming a loving, well-educated individual. Your guiding hand, bestowed upon your child, will have long-term effects on how your child learns to view the world and how they interact with others.  

Parent and child time spent together reading stories, having conversations, and singing develop emergent literacy skills. For example, by the time a child turns 1, his parents will have spent 8,760 hours providing him with consistent care. When a child is ready to start kindergarten at the age of 5, his parents will have accumulated 43,800 hours —over 1,000 days—with him, in which growth and development are continuously occurring. This is a crucial period of development.  

However, the responsibility given to parents is often overwhelming and that is when the village or extended family comes into play, to help raise children. Healthy parents lead to healthy families – not just physical health but emotional health, too. Often parents feel stressed, overworked, judged, and inadequate, leading to burnout and exhaustion. But with a community to validate those feelings, parents can build networks that support maintaining healthy relationships with their children. So, if I don’t have a community, how do I create one?  

Friends are a great place to begin. Think about one or two friends in your life that you trust. Reach out to them to explain that you want to cultivate more community for you and your family, and ask if they'd be interested. There’s no rulebook for how to establish your community and what it looks like. You just need willing participants to help design a framework that meets everyone’s needs!  

Make a list of places in your life in which you are exposed to other parents: schools, playgrounds, swimming or art lessons, local social media groups, your neighborhood, etc. The list will be unique to your family’s lifestyle but can show where you’re engaging with like-minded moms and dads. You can start small - throw out the idea of a simple potluck lunch or offer to host a group playdate (with parents in attendance). The idea is to select and cultivate relationships with other families that will blossom over time very intentionally. 

And, finally, consider seeking out local services and programs designed to build community. Parenting groups and/or community centers are wonderful places to start looking for other families who are seeking deeper connections and support systems. Play to Learn Playgroups are wonderful options to begin building a child-centered community. Check out the playgroups available at Danbury schools at Morris St. or 17 Cottage St. at 

Anne E. Mead, Ed. D., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or meadan@danbury.k12.