Do you actively invest in your children’s social wellbeing? I think most parents would like to believe they do. It’s hard to do that which you cannot define. The University of Nebraska Omaha says social wellness “involves building healthy, nurturing, and supportive relationships as well as fostering a genuine connection with those around you.” Quite simply, child development is much more than just what happens in the classroom. Our relationships with others can often play a huge role in determining our happiness and contentment. Today, we will look at what that means for children and how building community benefits everyone.
Lessons in Diversity
For many families diversity is a concept that must be taught. For mine, diversity was the only thing we knew! You may or may not be aware that I am a biracial woman who was transracially adopted at birth. My parents are white, and besides my brother and sister, so are most of my other family members. So while we had conversations about the topic, diversity was something that felt perfectly normal to me. When I bought our current house in Venice Beach, California, I looked forward to living close to the water, but the intermingling of people from all walks of life and ethnicities was a huge plus.
I’ve always wanted my boys to grow up around both people who looked like them as well as those who don’t. Surrounding yourself with so many different types of people allows children an opportunity to learn about various cultures and to gain a respect for them. So many global problems begin with xenophobia at the root. I want my sons to know that different is not synonymous with “bad.” Everyone from everywhere has something to contribute. We celebrate differences in my household.
The Role of Social Skills in Child Development
My sons are in a hybrid learning program that involves a mix of traditional in-classroom learning as well as a series of other types of classes and learning modules with a small group of kids their ages. I am intentional about creating an environment outside of the classroom and school hours where my boys and their friends can gather for fun activities and playtime. If you follow me on Instagram, you will undoubtedly catch glimpses of my infamous dance parties that usually feature guest DJs, catered kid-friendly foods, and LOTS of little ones dancing (or hopping around, lol) to the beat of their own drums. We have a blast!
Of course I want the kiddos to have fun. But, that’s not the only purpose of these gatherings. Providing a safe space for my boys and their buddies to hang out creates opportunities for their friendships to form and grow. An underrated part of child development involves acquiring “soft skills.” Soft skills include things like cooperation, collaboration, patience and more. I know that my boys will learn literacy, math and science in school. It’s just as important to me that they learn to be kind, to have empathy for others, and be overall good humans. These fun days at our home with their friends aid in those lessons.
The Case for Community
It has always been paramount to me that my sons have a good sibling relationship. I want them to be able to count on each other throughout their lives. But no man is an island. We are all stronger when we’re together. Gathering with friends lets my children see examples of healthy, well-adjusted relationships. I want them to understand that they belong to a community of people who care for and about them. When children develop healthy attachments, they grow up to be emotionally mature adults. Under my supervision, my boys regularly get to interact with trustworthy adults who model positive behaviors and habits. I love that Kingsley and Kensi know that they are supported not just by family members, but by members of the community who also appreciate the qualities and talents my boys bring to our little group.
Child development is well studied and documented, but I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach. We are tackling it from all angles, and yes, sometimes that means hosting elaborate dance parties with cotton candy, lego projects and disco lighting. If you have the ability to, create spaces for these moments—big or small, between friends to exist. In building community we build stronger, healthier individuals as well. And that, to me, is an essential part of child development.