In our series on Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs), we have looked at various ways parents can promote a sense of vulnerability and safety in the home. Home is our starting point and where we are able to focus on daily practices that create a sense of safety. However, PCEs do extend outside of the individual family unit. What I love about the next two PCEs is the focus on other adults and community involvement. The two PCEs that we will consider in this post are:
Enjoyment in participating in community traditions
Having at least two non-parent adults who genuinely care
These two PCEs are a reminder to parents that parenting is not something that is done in an isolated state but is to be a community venture. Nothing brings more relief to me as a parent than knowing that I am not on this journey alone but am united with others in the support and development of my children. According to the CDC, the creation of strong bonds and relationships support mental health in teens (DASH, 2021). Feeling connected is an important part of healthy emotional development. Teens need to know that someone cares about them in the home and also outside of the home (DASH, 2021).
Let’s consider a few tangible applications of these two PCEs.
Enjoyment in community traditions:
Participating in community traditions reminds our children and teens that they are part of a greater whole. By participating in community traditions, a sense of rhythm is established that reminds children and teens of the larger picture of support connected to their family. Community traditions can look like so many different things. Here’s a list of ideas:
Running/walking a Thanksgiving or New Year's 5k with your family
Participating in a holiday food drive
Hosting a Halloween party for your neighborhood
Attending a yearly festival (consider Fall Festivals or Christmas Light Festivals)
Apple picking/Pumpkin picking
Cutting your own Christmas tree
Viewing fireworks each Fourth of July
Being a part of a swim/dive team in the summer and participating in the social aspect of the sport
Joining an active Scout group and participating in the camp outs and activities
These yearly activities give your teens something to look forward to and create a sense of expectation and consistency. Activities do not have to be extensive or elaborate - they are simply predictable so that your child knows what to expect and has the event as a marker on their calendar. If you do not currently have traditions, consider having your teen sit with you and choose a tradition together. Having your teen choose the activities creates a sense of ownership and increases participation. If you do have current traditions, consider letting your teen add a new one to the calendar this year.
The second PCE (feeling that two non-parental adults genuinely care) is an important part of development - particularly for pre-teens and teens. As children develop, they begin to need the support and encouragement from others including coaches, teachers and peers. Parental thoughts and opinions become less important to the teen, and they begin to seek validation from others. Providing trusted adult support for your teen can be done by participating in the community traditions listed above (swim coaches, dive coaches, scout leaders, etc all provide excellent adult support). Music, theater and art teachers also provide an excellent avenue for increased adult support outside the home.
One final thought for these two particular PCEs: the community traditions and adult support outside of the home that your teen needs may look a bit different than you imagined as a parent. It is important to give your child a voice in these activities. If your child is interested in comic books, theater, a particular sport, or Dungeons & Dragons, you may need to spend some time looking for connection points in these areas - even if they are not interesting to you. This is another way to validate your teen’s interests and create a sense of safety in communication.
Licensed Resident in Counseling
Photo Credit - Clarke University