'Shrinking villages': why it's vital our kids have an adult network

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock 

We all spend a lot of our time trying to be all things to our children, especially as our "villages" shrink and we become more distant from family than ever before.

We live a lot of our lives online and can often go weeks or months without seeing family and friends. 

Demands on family life are high, and we spend our time working, getting organised for school, ferrying children from one activity to the next, and generally trying hard to tick everything off our to-do list while keeping petrol in the car and a smile on our faces.

But amongst all this, our children are losing the extra adults they used to have in their lives. Whether those adults were grandparents or aunts and uncles – or perhaps they were close friends who became known as 'Aunty' and 'Uncle' in lieu of actual family.

Family lawyer Jennifer Franklin sees her share of family breakdowns and she knows the importance of having other adults around.

"You could be the best parent in the world," she says. "But you can't be prepared for every eventuality. Having other adults in your child's life makes good sense."

Now, more than ever, it's crucial for our children to have adults in their lives they know they can talk to. As parents, we can't be all things – and that's not bad.

Here are five reasons we need to gather these adults for our children:

  1. Confidential but unemotional advice.

    Sometimes kids need advice from someone who knows what they're talking about, but the subject matter might be touchy. If your child feels a little bit uncomfortable about approaching you about a particular area of their lives, you can know they'll still be getting wisdom from an adult rather than asking their equally clueless mates. 
  2. Sin confession without the punishment.

    We've all done dumb stuff – especially when we're younger. Confessing your sins and getting sage advice and acceptance can sometimes be the best thing, and that's not necessarily parents' strong suit.
  3. A broader range of knowledge and skills

    We're all only one person, with one person's skill set and wisdom. No matter how incredible we are, we can't each possibly be as incredible as a group of loving adults.Sometimes you're busy or distracted.
  4. We're not only parents, we're also humans with our own lives.

    Sometimes we're distracted with work, relationships, friendships, or just life – and that's okay. Share the load, take time for yourself, relax a little.

    Jennifer Franklin also says if there is family trouble, other adults can offer "a safe house to go where they don't have to see, hear or be a part of any upheaval or unhappiness." 
  5. You can never have too much love

    Even if you're the most attentive person in the world, who wouldn't benefit from having more people that love them? They're not going to unseat you as the parent, but they certainly can love your child.

If you'd like to build your child's adult network but are unsure how to do it, Franklin recommends building the contact up gradually.

"Regular contact with aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, school families, sports clubs and friends builds trust and emotional connection," she says. 

"That strong connection leads to stronger, more resilient kids."