Community parenting can be defined as parenting that is carried out collectively or between families within a community.
We all know that within Gibraltar community parenting is common practice, with grandparents and in some cases even great-grandparents taking care of children when the parents have to go to work. More often than not grandparent carers are extremely happy to look after their grandchildren, but in some cases they do so because it is an economic necessity and they are not able to enjoy their retirement years on their own terms.
Across the globe there are places where it is the social norm, where it is common for families to live together, sometimes with many generations together under the same roof, or where children are watched over by people in their village who interact with them as if they were their own. Maybe we should take more heed of the old African proverb: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.
Community parenting may also be undertaken by close family friends, or other parents in the community who help each other with their children. Families who are classed as ‘non-traditional’, for instance single parents, blended families and adopted children, are becoming increasingly prevalent and in certain situations where parenting is a full time responsibility, it is something that needs to be shared with other caregivers providing additional support. This requires great trust from the parents of the children who are being cared for. They need to know that their little ones are in a safe environment and that the caregivers are responsible and care for the child’s welfare.
Raising families without community makes the burden of parenting harder for us all, but sometimes living in close proximity exposes children to different parenting styles and rules, and they may not be the same as ours. This can lead to children challenging their parents, rejecting their attitudes and ultimately cause upset and conflict.
One of the benefits of community parenting is increased social interaction, with children becoming more socially and verbally mature at an earlier age. Children living in alternative communities, such as eco-villages, often form independent friendships with adults who are neither their parents nor teachers and have several adults who are invested in their lives. They are exposed to different beliefs, values and opinions that can be useful as they journey into adulthood.
So is community parenting better? Given the choice, would you prefer to raise your children as a collective or on your own?
PACS (Parent and Child Society) Gibraltar
PACS hold community playgroups for babies, toddlers and their families at different locations in Gibraltar. Run by a dedicated team of trustees, local mums Gemma Kew, Chloe Weir and Helen Mumford, and a further group of volunteers who give up their free time each week, PACS has recently received charitable status and relies on donations or sponsorship to support the running of the groups. This goes towards purchasing insurance, supplies for the children’s snacks and crafts or ingredients for cooking. The donations also allow for the purchase of new play equipment
Playgroups are a great place to meet mums with children your child’s age, and where your child can make new friends too. “We ensure that everyone who comes along feels welcome,” Gemma says, “and we are always on hand for a tea and a chat.”
This year saw a lot of movement in terms of locations of the playgroups. Previously based at Laguna Youth Club, PACS playgroups were temporarily left without a home due to building work being carried out at the new Notre Dame School. “Thanks to our partnership working with the Youth Service we saw our Toddler group and Cooking Club relocated to what was St. Teresa’s Hall at Glacis estate,” Helen explains. A new working relationship was established with the Children and Families service and Trinity Toddlers moved to the new family centre at Mid-Harbours estate. More recently the Bumps and Babies session have relocated to Dolphins Youth Club, at Rosia Dale estate, South District.
Parent led activities help to support children’s learning skills, health and well-being, and their social and emotional development. Through play the quality of a child’s relationships are improved.
An important part of what PACS strives to provide is a sense of community, making parents and families feel less isolated. One thing that’s really important to PACS is that all their groups are accessible to as many families as possible, so they don’t charge for sessions, but parents or carers can choose to give a voluntary contribution for the play sessions.
Find out more on the PACS Facebook page.