Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
Youth are our future. They will be the leaders of tomorrow. But how are we nurturing them so they can succeed? In Halton, Ontario a group of community organizations have come together to collaborate on helping build the conditions to create the best kids of tomorrow. Facilitated by a not for profit called the Our Kids Network, the group has formed around a desire to implement the 40 developmental assets for youth. This is a framework that was created by the Search Institute, you can find more information here: http://www.search-institute.org/research/developmental-assets. At the heart of these assets is the idea of authentic relationships and community. This group is made up of teachers and principals, police, government, members from the local YMCA and other community groups that are focused on youth.
Recently, we had a great conversation where we reflected on our stories and experiences of community together. Her are some of the key highlights:
We started by reflecting on where we felt a great sense of connection as children...
It was with the friends you had in your class and also played with after school. The nice thing was that you could play with your friends just by going on the street; they were your neighbours so you didn’t need to travel. One person shared the story of how she would play every evening until late and then her dad would whistle for her to come home.
Clubs and Activities:
It was fun being part of these groups. You felt you belonged to something special that had its own rituals and uniforms. One person shared how they looked forward to turning 10 so they could join the roadrunner community.
Simply by walking down the street you would run into lots of different people. Everyone would stop and speak to you. People would look out for each other, but also scold you when you caused trouble. One person shared how there was an older lady who sat on the porch and would give her a hard time whenever she was late coming home. Though she found this annoying, later in life she has come to appreciate that people looked out for her.
It really came down to having a place where you got to see the same faces again and again. Through this, relationships were built and you felt like you really belonged. Ultimately, everyone wants a group where they feel like they belong.
We all shared the role that our parents played in helping us build a sense of community. On one level it came in the form of the guidance and encouragement they gave us to be ourselves and to explore. They also lead by their actions. One person shared how her mother was a huge role model. “She volunteered for everything and brought us with her. She was a great role model on giving back to the community.” Another shared that it was not just her parents but also her grandparents that taught her about community.
When asked where we think kids today feel a sense of connection, we said:
1. - Online
2. - School
3. - Sports
4. - Church
We talked about how neighbourhoods no longer feel like a place of connection and community for youth. “You do not see neighbourhood teens hanging out anymore.”
We wanted to unpack this change. We notice that fear seems to be a barrier. Parents are afraid to let their kids out to play and the media serves to help escalate this fear.
It is also hard to compete with the electronic games that are now out there for kids to play. There is an incredible stimulation you can now get from sitting down in your own home and just switching something on. You don’t have to leave your comfort zone to meet people. You don’t need to get on a bike and make the effort to get somewhere. No knocking on the door to talk to someone else’s parent. Those are all a little outside your comfort zone since you have to use social skills. It is a lot easier to be entertained by switching on a button and passing the time or sending an email or texting, instead of going to meet someone.
There has also been a shift in demographics. It used to be that people would have 3 or 4 children in a family and now you have 1.1. This means that you have fewer kids and they are spread out further. This combined with the earlier point of hyper-protective parents means that it is hard to find a way to connect and play. Technology can be used to bridge this gap, though.