Does it still take a village to raise a child?
We all know the popular proverb that says that, “it takes a village to raise a child.” This refers to the fact that it takes more than just the parents to raise a child. Raising a child is a shared responsibility and the role of many people. It was probably easier back in the days of no fences and communal living. Children could be disciplined by many people in the compound or neighborhood and they knew that many adults were keeping an eye on him or her.
We have morphed from that in today’s digital world where we all live a more private lifestyle. There seems to be more of a focus on me, myself and I when it comes to raising our families. Most people I ask don’t even know their neighbours, neither do they appreciate when an adult scolds their child for misbehaving. So though we are more connected to people than ever before digitally, we don’t have as many deeply close relationships as before.
I joke that it takes an e-village to raise a child in the digital age. Thanks to the Internet and media being available 24/7; our children are influenced by more than just their parents, teachers, aunties, uncles and neighbors. In reality our children are being raised by more than just members of their household.
Who is Raising Your Child?
Most homes are dual income homes and so both mother and father work outside the home. By the time you add the reality of Lagos hustle and the traffic situation, you easily have children who spend most of their days with someone other than their parents. These could be domestic staff or other relatives who are part of the support system. However, care must be taken to ensure that the right people are given a visa to become part of your family. Part of their values and influence will rub off on your child, so you need to think carefully about it. Be intentional about who you let take care of your child, especially since you can still control this part.
Technology plays a large part in parenting today. Google celebrated 20 years recently and my kids commented that I was 20 years old when Google started. I thanked them for the math calculation. But indeed, there is a whole generation of parents, a.k.a. Generation X that raised children in the era of Google and the Internet. Ask a parent with children today and they will definitely tell you technology plays a daily part in their parenting. You google when you have a question, you might place a video call to talk to your child, you might share a video of your child dancing with a friend or family on the other side of the world.
Our support system has become other parents in the e-village who we refer to and ask for advise on various parenting questions or challenges. I call Google my personal assistant, medical assistant and so much more. How many times have you referred to google to get some insight into parenting questions? Google is part of the support system.
Our children are also being raised by Google! Do you agree? Before the Internet the television was called a babysitter because children would simply watch Barney to entertain themselves. Fast-forward to the screen era and your child is being entertained by You Tube, smart devices, online games, Google, social media, Apps etc. There are so many sources of external influence that affects our children both positively and negatively. All these external sources are playing a part in forming your child.
Modern Day Parenting
As a modern day parent you will undoubtedly face the question of how much screen time it too much, when should your child get a phone, when should they get on social media etc. No one has all the answers and parents are having to navigate digital age parenting while balancing all the other demands of parenting.We need a support system more than ever before. Why? Because we cannot be there all the time. We have more things competing for our time and for the attention of our children. Distracted parenting is on the rise and this has its own downside. Everyone is busy! The average parent who is out with his or her child, is scrolling through social media or WhatsApp while the child is either not being engaged or is engrossed in his or her own virtual world.
Little wonder why children are having little social skills when they start school or get a job. I once had an intern who was playing candy crush during a team meeting, and she really didn’t think there was anything wrong. She said she could multi-task!We need to remind ourselves that physical touch, social skills and communication is still more important than the virtual world of likes, retweets and comments. Because our children do what we do more than what we say, we need to model what we want them to do. If we want to be strict on reducing screen time, then parents cannot always be glued to devices. Guess what? Your child will do what they see you doing, too. Have certain device free times in the day or device free zones in your house.
The Village Matter
Because we all struggle with how much is too much on screen time, dealing with work-life balance challenges, traffic and the Lagos hustle, it is nice when you talk to other people who are part of your “village.” Talk to other parents who have been there before you, those who are currently going through the same challenges. Talk to those who are willing to share their experiences, both the good and not so good. Sharing in a non-judgmental way helps you avoid making the same mistakes and hopefully get answers that help you.
Though we are in the digital age, children need the same things – love, support, nurture, encouragement, a safe environment, education etc. It is the other “newer” things that we need help with such as screen-time, cyber-bullying, dealing with FOMO (fear of missing out), social media addiction, changing future of jobs, sexuality, STEM or robotics etc. Finding platforms and communities that can support you and provide a safe environment to discuss questions around being a parent today are very useful. One such community is LagosMums, which was set up exactly for this purpose. It is a community with over 70,000 members to date who discuss motherhood and parenting.
The annual LagosMums conference which will hold on Saturday Oct 13, 2018 is one such physical avenue to meet a host of other parents, experts and caregivers to discuss our children and the future that keeps changing. Bringing parts of the e-village together under one roof.While no one has all the answers, a lot happens when parents come together to discuss the most important role we have – parenting and raising our children for the future. It still takes a village to raise a child, the villagers might be more diverse and include e-citizens but no one can do it alone.
To attend, register at bit.ly/LMConference2018 or visit lagosmums.com for more information.
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