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Your Family Strengths: Community and Family Ties

Strong families are connected to others in the community. They don't stand alone. You will find such families closely involved with extended families and friends, schools, churches, and local organizations that promote the well-being of individuals and communities. Parents support groups that help develop and educate their children.

While connections with extended family and friends are always important, their support is often critical in times of great need. For example, one family lost a husband and father in an auto-pedestrian accident. That left a wife and mother, with little education and job skills, to rear five sons alone. Extended family members stepped up to assist her. Her parents watched the youngest children while she built a home-based business and got job training. A brother took the sons fishing and camping. A school principal and teachers provided additional support to children struggling with the loss of their father. Friends lent their hands and listening ears to a bereaving widow. Our support of our extended family is likewise important. While most adult children report having a positive relationship with their parents, they can sometimes do a better job of remembering their parents and meeting their needs. Parents of adult children benefit from close ties with their children, even when they cannot visit in person very often.

Being connected to family, friends, and the community benefits the young as well. Three national studies found that social connectedness is associated with fewer problem behaviors among youth. Recent research has also found a strong connection between lower high school student achievement and parents' tendency to be less involved after kids get to high school.

Here are some ideas for strengthening community and family ties:

Note Night. Choose from a list of relatives and friends one who is "note-able" and write that person or family a brief note. Make it fun. Tell about funny happenings as well as more serious events.

School Connections. Find ways to stay involved in your child's education from kindergarten through high school graduation. Share a talent in the classroom, attend parent-teacher conferences, support school events, and participate in school policy making. Make your home a learning place. Show your children you love to learn. Have children write down their academic goals. Discuss and agree on rules about homework.

"Super Story." Family members who live apart can collaborate on a story. Make a list of names and addresses of family members who have agreed to participate. Write a paragraph or two to begin the story, then send it on to the next person on the list. When the story comes back to you, send it on again. Add to it as long as you like; photocopy the finished product for all contributors.

Neighbor to Neighbor. Strengthen ties you have with neighbors by being neighborly. Find ways to be helpful, such as splitting wood, installing fencing, or looking after children. Have a neighborhood yard sale and share the profits. Get permission from authorities and block off a section of the neighborhood and have a block party.

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