The amount of influence the family life has on a child is eye-opening. Did you know that marriage reduces the probability of child poverty by 80 percent? Did you further know that a child coming from an “intact married home” is 44 percent more likely to gain a college degree, 40 percent less likely to have a child out of wedlock and will earn $4,000 more per year than a child who did not come from such a home? The power of family life can, in many cases, determine the outcome of a child’s life.
One of the major factors in determining an “intact married home” is the amount of involvement parents have in their child’s life. The same holds true for single-parent households. Children who have parents who are heavily involved in their lives are much more likely to be educationally successful, economically successful and more morally upright than children who do not.
It’s time to completely change the conversation on good parenting. Children are the product of their environment by what it does and does not provide. This new conversation has an important aspect—supportive involvement. Research has shown that when parents are active in their child’s educational life, whether it’s reading to their child, holding high educational standards for their child, assisting their child with homework, guiding their child in important decision-making processes or meeting with their child’s teachers, their child will have higher grades and greater academic achievement compared to those who do not.
The positive impact of parental involvement should not be overlooked. Take for example the positive impact that family dinners can have on a child. Teenagers who live in a household that has regular family dinners are 11 percent less likely to use tobacco, 13 percent less likely to smoke marijuana and 18 percent less likely to consume alcohol. Simply put, parental involvement with children is a significant way to address barriers that arise, particularly when parent-child relationships are troubled.
Parents have a major impact in shaping who their child becomes, but they cannot do it alone. Parents, particularly parents raising a child on their own, need safe supportive systems from their local community to help rear their children. Having support from a local community can make all the difference in the world. Examples of safe and supportive systems within local communities may include relatives, places of worship, a Boys and Girls Club and/or activities that will have positive engagement for children.
Supportive systems can help parents manage and negotiate difficult family situations in a number of ways. First, they can work with fathers and mothers before the birth of a child to address obstacles that hinder fathers’ involvement with their children. Second, they can provide communication and negotiation skills needed to address complex family issues, facilitating communication and co-operation between the parent and child. Third, they can counsel and educate parents on appropriate childhood rearing. Fourth, they can provide services on an ongoing basis so they can effectively respond to difficult family situations as they arise, rather than simply offering one-off interventions.
An old but true African proverb gives us advice: “It takes a village to raise a child.” This proverbial village includes you, the parent, your family, your local place of worship and the many social institutions around you. The best thing you can do for your child is to get and stay involved in their life and surround them with those supportive systems within your local community.
I challenge parents and local communities as well to encourage and support the families that make up the foundation of their society. What are your contributions to changing the conversation in the village?
Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 110, 6-7 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday and S.C WGCV 4-5 p.m. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.