When is the last time you baked cookies for a neighbor or cooked some extra dinner and took it to a friend who is struggling to find time to cook? Did you know that doing such activities for others is actually a way to increase the health and well-being of your own children and family? I read an inspiring newsletter this morning on social capital and the value of reaching out to our neighbors. While the newsletter was not intended strictly for parents, it reminded me of the 5 Protective Factors that parents need in order to parent effectively, even under stress, and to diminish the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. This is according to extensive research conducted by Strengthening Families. One of the protective factors is Social Connections. Parents need “friends, family members, neighbors and other members of a community who provide emotional support and concrete assistance to” them.
“Social connections build parents’ “social capital,” their network of others in the community—family, friends, neighbors, churches, etc.—whom they can call on for help solving problems. Friendships lead to mutual assistance in obtaining resources that all families need from time to time, including transportation, respite child care, and other tangible assistance as well as emotional support. Helping parents build constructive friendships and other positive connections can reduce their isolation, which is a consistent risk factor in child abuse and neglect. Isolation is a problem in particular for family members who are in crisis or need intensive help, such as victims of domestic violence.” (source)
With that in mind, below are some ideas from the newsletter: Engage in Dough Diplomacy – Bake Cookies for a Neighbor from Center for a New American Dream
Taking action by supporting legislation or greening your home is important, but don’t forget that we can also take action in our social lives. New Dream has always believed that change begins with our everyday choices: investing in relationships builds happier people and a stronger community–and may be good for your health. Which is why we’re asking you to bring a neighbor some cookies.
Between the mid 1980′s and the 1990′s, Americans’ openness to making new friends declined by about a third. A 2000 Harvard study found that one-third of Americans no longer participate in social activities like inviting people to their home or visiting relatives. Reaching out to others doesn’t just add meaning to our lives–it’s part of what makes up social capital, the shared values and trust that keep a society together and running smoothly.
Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of your own capital to simply bake some cookies (or any other treat) and share them with a neighbor you don’t know. Think of it as the most fun and delicious way to make the world into what you want it to be: an open, trusting place full of people who will wave to you on the sidewalk. As a family activity, making and sharing homemade goodies is a way to have more face-to-face time and less screen time. So go ahead–knock on that door and then tell us what happened and how it made you feel.
cookies photo by emilybean
This post originally appeared at Community of Mindful Parents.