Please indulge me as I share a personal story that increased my understanding: Many years ago my mother-in-law had a massive heart attack, holding onto life only through artificial means. My father-in-law, typically a very strong independent man, was inconsolable and unable to meet the demands of life as his struggled with the loss of his wife. I didn’t know how I could help him and in my desperation I called my favorite pediatrician, my father. With his usual common sense approach he gave me some excellent and very wise advice that changed my life and perspective forever. I have applied this advice in many situations as I have worked with parents and community members.
He advised me to support my husband, whom I was closest to, and that my husband could then in turn be strengthened to and better equipped to support his father. He further advised me that I was not in a position to understand or meet the needs of my father-in-law but through offering peripheral support to those closest to the situation I was able to make a difference in his life. There are always many layers of individuals surrounding each human being and as we apply support to those we have access, they can then support those whom they are closest and make a significant difference in their lives.
This same principle applies to children. Parents and caregivers are the most influential individuals in a child’s life. Parents struggle as they meet the demands of life, yet a community that adds peripheral support to children, families, and caregivers will reap the rewards of a community that places children in high priority. Only as a community can we support the next generation.