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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

`It takes whole village to raise a child`

18th January 2012

Like I have always said parenting is more of on the job training. Children do not come to earth with a manual. You have to learn as you parent. There is no clear cut formula as to what is right and what is wrong.

That is why parenting is a subject that drives intense emotion, raises important questions and is unique to each family. Parenting means different things to different people, but ultimately, parenting is a skill that needs to be learned and mastered.

Mostly, we raise our children based on what was handed down to us or what we feel is right. Remember the famous saying, “it takes a whole village to raise a child…and a whole community to keep the parents sane?”

I love that statement, it simply means that it takes a village to raise a child, that is, parenting goes beyond the immediate family environment. Families should instill sound discipline at the family level, while encouraging communal discipline.

Parents should never compromise on disciplining children; and, this should be a communal affair. Seeking and accepting advice when one is experiencing personal and parenting challenges is highly encouraged if one is to raise socially balanced children.

In the past, in Africa, there were many forms of support systems to parents, and skills were passed through generations.

Today, urbanization and globalization has affected the family to the point where a young parent rarely has support from the extended relatives. Harsh economic times have led to parents working for long hours, away from home, with little time to spend with their children.

Modernization has destroyed the nuclear family set up and now families stay far away from each other. The role that aunts and uncles used to play in raising children has been taken over by television and friends.

This has left the young couples with very little or no support in terms of raising balanced children. They have to battle it alone in the city.

They now have to play that role which used to be played by family elders of providing sex education to their own children. Some don’t know how to go about it as a result their children end up learning whatever they can from strangers, which in itself has proven to be disastrous.

This scenario has brought about challenges which the modern day parent has to grapple with in order to keep the family intact and raise well balanced children. The parents have to fight hard to in facilitating family get-togethers to facilitate bonding, interaction and sharing among relatives.

The modern day family has to make choices for the benefit of the family and create a balance between family and career. Parenting is more than just providing basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing, education). Loving, disciplining and open discussions with children are equally important when it comes to raising children hence parents should strive to spend quality time with their children.

They ought to learn from parenting practices of the past, while carefully adopting those lessons that are important in the current parenting context. Creating a conducive environment at home where there is respect and open communication between spouses, as well as between parents and their children is quite essential.

Apart from the problems brought about by globalization, HIV/AIDS has led to children losing their parents resulting in the emergence of child headed families or children staying with foster parents. This has compounded the problem of parenting.

In most cases, the siblings who have to take care of their younger ones ended up engaging in commercial sex or fell prey to older men in an effort to earn money to take care of their young ones. This became a vicious cycle whereby the whole family ends up infected and succumbing to the HIV scourge.

HIV/Aids brought about another challenge and a different form of parenting. This means that society has to come up with a solution of equipping these children who have become parents overnight with skills of parenting their siblings in this demanding world.

There has to be a way in which these children have to access support services that government, development organizations and the community are providing so they can take care of their other siblings.

Grandparents also face this problem when they have to take care of their grandchildren who have been orphaned because of HIV/Aids. The grandparents are old and ill equipped to face the challenges of modern day parenting. They need all the support they can get in order to raise their grandchildren properly.

This brings us to the saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child.

All said and done parents have to be proactive enough to learn how to raise their children. They need to create a stable environment for children to grow up in because different environments expose children to different values, norms and cultures which may lead to confusion. As parents we have to teach by example, we ought to walk the talk and be role models for our children.

Last but not least, we ought to recognize that children are children, and we should not expect them to behave otherwise but rather learn the different behaviors and milestones to expect at each of their development stage. Happy parenting! [email protected]

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