They say it takes a village. Yet for many people, the village feels non-existent. This didn’t use to be the case. These days lots of parents are raising kids away from extended families. And while they may have some friends to fill in here and there, it mostly feels like they’re flying solo. On top of that, our judgmental and overly-busy society has led to many people becoming scared to offer help, nervous to ask for it, and lots and lots of loneliness. A happy, healthy, thriving community requires that we invest in each other, including each others’ kids.
How do we change this?
Be the village.
Instead of waiting for there to be the village, this challenge is about becoming the village.
Ways to Love Their Kids
Here are a few ideas to be the village for the kids and parents in your neighborhood:
Bring them food.
Know any new parents? While you can’t give them more sleep (unless you’re willing to watch their kids while they take a nap) you can help them with some other basics, like a delicious, healthy meal. Consider coordinating a Meal Train if someone hasn’t already. And don’t forget about breakfasts. Most people tend to bring dinners, but wholesome breakfasts like these oatmeal muffins are a hit with nursing moms and can be made for a whole week at a time.
Play with their kids.
There is no easier way to show a kid you care than by taking time to have fun with them. Play LEGOS, shoot hoops, make art, break out some games.
Teach their kids.
You don’t have to be a licensed teacher to share what you know with kids. Have a green thumb? Share your gardening skills. Love to work on cars? Include a teen that has a mechanical interest. Play the piano? Teach a kid that enjoys music.
Be supportive and encouraging.
Kids need more than their parents to be positive role models in their lives. They need other people that are invested in them and their future. Build the kids up in your neighborhood. Be a safe place for them to come when they need. Encourage them. Cheer them on. Not only do kids need support and encouragement, but so do their parents! Be a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, a safe place where they can share struggles (and wins too!).
Ways to Love Their Furry Kids
Even pet parents need help from time to time. Here are a few ideas to be the village for your pet parent neighbors:
Take them for a walk.
Noticed that your neighbors haven’t been out much to walk their dog lately? Perhaps they have a new baby, or a medical condition, or they’re just in a rough or busy season and they’re not able to get out as much. Offer a walk or even a trip to the dog park.
Whether it’s travel for work, vacation, or a hospital stay, it’s inevitable that pet parents will need help with care for their pets at some point. Offer to help watch their pets wherever everyone’s most comfortable.
Bring them a treat.
Love giving gifts? Bring your neighbor’s pet a treat or toy to show you care.
Consider them as a pet and not a pest.
Maybe you’re not feeling so loving towards your neighbors pets — especially their dog that they leave outside and tends to bark all. the. time. A great first step might be to talk to your neighbor directly about what’s happening, instead of lodging a formal complaint to the city. Say it’s a case of constant barking. It could be worth finding out why it’s happening and seeing if there’s anything you can do to help. There could be more to it than what’s seen!
Here are some more great ideas for going above and beyond caring for kids and pets in your own neighborhood:
- Foster dogs, cats, or even whole litters through the Denver Animal Foster Care Program (also make sure to check breed specific rescues like Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue).
- Become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
- Share your smarts as a tutor with Whiz Kids.
- Whether it’s preparing a community dinner, helping with school supplies or Christmas gifts, or even sprucing a room to make a space a home, there are a ton of ways to support families transitioning from homelessness through Mile High Ministries.
- Looking to make a huge difference in the life of a child? Become a foster parent or adopt a child in Colorado.
- Not in Colorado? Check into fostering & adoption programs where you live.