Anchoring in Community
Anchoring: Developing a sense of community
Isolation is never a good thing, in fact isolation is the enemy in most cases. If you have spent any time with me, I have likely said this to you as I believe it is so true. Divorce brings loss no doubt and can be isolating to you and your child. Just as you may be adjusting to the losses of friends, a sense of community, belonging and place, your child may very well encounter these kinds of adjustments. Everything they have known has changed as well. Belonging to a larger community is known to be supportive and helps ease the discomfort of adjusting to divorce or loss of any kind. Think about it for a moment, if we are isolated, we only have our own perspective to take. We cannot comfort ourselves well, we are not able to create new skill or ways of being that improve our situation and we can’t get input as we move forward.
Let’s be clear, it is fine to be alone sometimes. Isolation is a deeper state of aloneness. The difference is, whether or not, we have resource for support outside of ourselves. The danger in complex situations is that isolation may grow and further embed us in thinking that we have no support. Children have awareness of the pain of their parent and sometimes, not always an awareness of their own pain. In cases where parents are not able to meet the need of the child, this will increase isolation as the child seeks to be the one meeting the parents need-an unhealthy role reversal indeed. In other complex situations, a partnering parent may hinder a child’s acceptance and level of comfort in the new community, or in the same community with you as the parent.
So what can be done- plenty! You know the priority of creating one experience of their life, rather than two different experiences that never meet- ways to help in joining their life experience is a goal of another post.
Your child needs to feel like your dwelling place, your neighborhood, you community is theirs. They can manage having two if your partnering parent lives far away. In fact, they will benefit from having two as support will always be on hand or them.
In any case, your child needs to expand their community and have a sense of belonging to a “place” that bonds them to you. They need to know they are part of larger community, family, circle of support and friends. This promotes healthy adjustment for them creating stability for the child. This may mean stretching outside of your comfort zone a bit but will be well worth the effort.
Think about your community. What is it based upon? Shared interests with others? Being close in proximity? Working towards shared values and goals?
Now think of your child’s. Their world is smaller no doubt, as it should be but the questions are the same. Does your child have a place to be with other children or individuals who share their interests- say activities such as sports, hobbies clubs? Do they know the parks, landmarks, and fun places near their home in your community- specifically important if you are not in the same community as when you lived together.
Being involved locally will help your child understand their sense of belonging with you which is helpful in all cases of family transition and especially important is there is complexity in your family. All of these become anchors to create resiliency in the experience and relationship you have with your child.
Tips for increasing community anchors
1. Sign the child up for activities they are interested in and make sure to attend yourself.
2. Visit local parks, and point out to your child the features that they can remember, ie “this is the caste park, this is the park with the big slide etc. Point the park out as you pass by it while driving. You want the child to be able to “mark” the landscape in the community as if they have a map in their head.
3. Visit local history and cultural landmarks in your community, read books or make up stories to go with them ( see the storytelling skill sheet for tips on this)
4. Research the history of your area and talk about the stories as you drive or walk. SO many histories to choose form, geographic, stories or origin, famous people who made the community.
5. For older kids, get them involve in thinking about local issues and educate them on civic responsibility like voting.
6. Have your child draw a map each week adding a place you have visited, and keep the art in a place they can see and review. Revisit it during a phone call to help them anticipate more adventures next time you are together.
7. For older children, have a treasure hunt in the community to explore and investigate the area. Try geo-caching for older kids.
8. Remember, nature build brains, so get outside and have your child enjoy whatever landscape is around. Hiking, swimming, biking, walking etc.
9. Visit the local Humane society or rescue to have a “visit” with animals. Volunteer with the child at community events, a homeless feeding site, with the parks department clean-up day or walkathon for a cause you believe in.
10. Make sure children have a local doctor or medical care center that they know will help when/if they need medical care in your home.
11. Visit the local fire departments as well and teach them safety skills.