Most people see a new car as an investment that is worth the time and energy it takes to keep it clean and shiny and in good repair. They know that taking good care of their car will help them avoid costly repairs in the future and extend the life and value of their purchase.
It is time to care for parents as well as we care for a new SUV, to do more than wait for parents and families to break down, leave them by the side of the road, and then, go off to look for a replacement.
Parents are the single most important influence in their children’s lives. But even the most involved, caring, informed parent doesn’t raise a child alone. Many of the supports parents need will require communities to act giving parents help with the essential resources so they can do their jobs day in and day out while others will require a better understanding of parents and their concerns.
In a 2002 poll of parents, Building Strong Families, “A majority of parents surveyed are going it alone in the vital and challenging task of raising children and teenagers. Most say they don’t often turn to their extended family friends, and community resources for support in parenting.”
That’s why we must begin to create parenting rich communities that focus on parenting as a lifelong occupation, one that evolves constantly with the changing needs of the child, family priorities, career concerns, and the quality of life within the community.
A parenting-rich community values families and the role of parents and caregivers. It supports parents and caregivers from all backgrounds, raising children of all ages from infancy through young adulthood. When asked what they need to do a great job as parents, parents indicate a desire for affordable housing in safe neighborhoods, good schools and adults they can trust with their children. In a parenting-rich community, resources, information, support and public awareness about parenting are so abundant and so widely accepted that all parents and caregivers have easy access to the help they need to raise their children successfully.
In a parenting-rich community, policy makers and community leaders understand, value and support the needs of parents. Public policy decisions on such topics as economic development, zoning, education and social, recreational and cultural services are made with an understanding of their effects on parents and their parenting role. Supporting parents in the wonderful, difficult and challenging task of raising children is essential to social and economic well being.
There is a wealth of information out there that will help communities understand what parents need and how they can build these supports. The next best step is to consolidate this information into easy-to-use tools that are available in every community to guide anyone looking for ways to improve the ability and stability of parents so that their children can thrive.
It is time to fill the tank, check the oil and rotate the tires for the members of our neighborhoods who run 24 hours a day: parents.
For more information on CWLA and on its national initiative Creating Parenting-Rich Communities, visit www.cwla.org or call (202) 638-2952.
Courtesy of ARA Content
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Courtesy of ARA Content