I wrote this piece for our school magazine and thought the sentiments would benefit a wider audience. It has been edited for relevance and I hope it holds meaning for you.
The Importance of Community has long been studied in psychological and anthropological circles. As social creatures, humans need to be surrounded by a group of connected individuals to thrive and achieve common and individual goals. Researchers have also identified that raising children in a community is integral to their skill development, mental health and sense of self. Traditionally these “communities” would have been a co-operative of family or families, supporting each other to meet the needs of the individual and group as a whole. At an individual level, having a collection of aunties, uncles, cousins and elders all supporting you is the most helpful way to becoming a psychologically healthy and integrated individual.
However, our world has changed and research and discussion on community now focusses on the loss of community and the impacts of this. These include a rise in loneliness, stress and alienation. Mental health is on the rise and the loss of community and connection has been acknowledged as a contributing factor to this. New mothers are left at home alone, to care for newborns with no support, except for a tired partner who returns home after a day at work with an empty tank. Globalisation now means that couples are raising children in countries other than their native, in unit blocks or stand-alone homes, with few family members and friends available to support them.
In this modern age the onus is therefore on the individual to draw community around them. We must find our communities in groups that we are involved in, work groups, sports groups, book clubs and so on. Often, the school playground can be a wonderful place to connect with other, likeminded people, who are struggling and enjoying the same moments as you. Sometimes it can feel daunting to approach and make friends with your child’s, classmate’s parents. However trust me, somewhere amongst the group there will be kindred spirits who through forming connection with you will find a committed and caring support network.