Working in Partnership
It has been a long-held view since the foundation of the College that the education of children and young people requires a partnership between parents, the staff and the students. The College has developed a culture of building a sense of community both within the College and as well as with the wider community. This feature is one of the ‘College Distinctives’. God designed us and wants us to be in community with one another.
The process of using the collective wisdom of staff, parents and, at times, members of the extended family has benefitted the growth and development of our children. Michael Grose (2020) suggests that raising children has always been best when it’s a community affair. In previous generations, aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents and family friends – spare parents, or ‘sparents – all played a part in raising kids. The last decade has seen the rise of parenting as an individual endeavour, which can place considerable pressure for parents to always be at their best.
Growing up I remember my grandparents being involved in my life and showing care and interest in me. At the time, I thought they were really old (in their 60’s) and I probably didn’t appreciate the contribution they made towards my development. It wasn’t until I was older that I had a greater appreciation for their wisdom and their life experiences that they were able to share and assist with shaping my life.
The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ needs to be updated to ‘it takes a town or suburb full of healthy adults to look out for kids at different stages of their lives.’ A mouthful, but you get the idea.
Grose suggests that ‘sparents’ can provide support at different stages of a child’s development. When kids are very young, most parents want a break from the relentlessness of child-rearing. It’s time for other adults to step up to offer a smattering of advice, a touch of moral support and plenty of babysitting relief.
As kids move into primary school they are primed for finding their place in the world. Spending time with other adults such as family, friends and parents of their friends broadens their horizons, hastening this important socialisation process.
Developmentally, teenagers benefit enormously from relationships with men and women outside their immediate family. Sparents make great confidantes and coaches for young people at a stage when they are seeking independence from their parents while undergoing significant emotional and physical changes.
The benefits of sparents are:
Filling a talent or interest gap
Kids usually appreciate having an adult to share their interests, but it’s hard for parents to be across all their children’s hobbies and activities. Relatives or family friends are well placed to fill the interest void that occurs in some families.
Filling a gender gap
If you are raising a son in an all-female household then an uncle, grandfather or male family friend can be a great additional role model. Similarly, girls in all-male households can benefit from sparenting by a female friend or relative.
Bringing a fresh voice
Ever noticed how kids will listen to other adults more than they listen to their parents, even though the message is the same? It’s frustrating, but that has always been the reality of raising children and young people.
Bringing some emotional detachment
As strange as it may sound, being your child’s parent can be an obstacle to parenting them rationally. When we are heavily invested, rightfully so, in all their hopes and dreams as well as our own wishes for them, it’s inevitable that we won’t always use logic and reason, especially in the heat of a challenging moment. The presence of another calming adult without the emotional investment that comes with parenting provides a different perspective, particularly when kids behave poorly or when academic results can disappoint.
(Michael Grose, parentingideas.com.au)