Other People's Kids
“I don’t understand why adults are afraid of me. Is it because of how I dress or look? I’m really a nice person if they’d just get to know me.” “I need more adult friends in my life.”
—Teenagers interviewed by Kathleen Kimball-Baker for Tag, You’re It!
As parents, these heartfelt pleas for connection ought to make us feel concerned. A common frustration for many adults is that they want to be involved in positive ways in young people’s lives. The problem is that they don’t always know how to do it. Perhaps what parents need is this: a marketing campaign that gives valuable, practical tips for reaching out to other young people, and, in so doing, models positive values for our own children and other adults.
You’ll find tips below for creating caring connections to other people’s children. Try some of these ideas yourself, and then become part of the campaign by sharing the information with another parent.
Tips for . . .
- parents with children ages birth to 5
- When you talk to other parents, be sure to greet and talk to their children, too. Get down at the child’s eye level, use a normal speaking voice (not baby talk), and listen carefully.
- If your children spend time in a childcare setting, try to set aside time for occasional visits or regular volunteering. Play with your kids, as well as with others.
- When you drop off and pick up your children from childcare, make a point of connecting with other parents and figuring out which kids “go with” which adults. These simple connections build community.
- parents with children ages 6 to 9
- Invite your children’s friends to your home at times when you are able to supervise and play with them.
- Get to know neighborhood children and their parents. Depending on the neighbor kids’ ages, you can invite them over for treats and playtime, or hire them for simple jobs, such as “mother’s helper” or babysitting, pet-sitting, and leaf-raking.
- Find opportunities to connect with the interests of children in your social network. For example, send them newspaper or magazine articles about their favorite sports, music groups, or good books.
- parents with children ages 10 to 15
- Volunteer in a local school. Tell the volunteer coordinator that you want a task involving interaction with students.
- Be bold—introduce yourself to older children and teens living near you. Jot down their names to help you remember them.
- Ask parents of your children’s friends how you can be involved with their children. For instance, would they be comfortable having their children join your family on a camping trip? Do you all want to share a meal together on a regular basis? Are they comfortable having you discipline their kids when their children are in your care?
- Tell other parents when you see their children being responsible or generous in their actions. Try to find opportunities to praise more often than you report misbehavior.
- parents with children ages 16 to 18
- Offer help and support to parents of younger children. Get to know them as well as their kids.
- Send cards or e-mail greetings to children and teens in your life.
- Ask your teenagers and other neighborhood young people to help you plan a neighborhood event, such as a block party.
- Ask your teen’s friends for recommendations of their favorite books, movies, art shows, plays, or music.