How To Be The Community Your Child Needs
These past few months have been a doozy, haven’t they? Activities have been canceled, for most of us school was mandated to be done from home, sports were suspended . . . and if you are the parent of a girl, chances are these changes have hit her hard. Girls are relational by nature, so for them, this time of social distancing has undoubtedly been a little harder to navigate.
What’s even more difficult is the inclination for many of them to want to increase the use of electronic devices and social media, which we know can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it allows them to connect but it can also invite them into a world of impossible standards, comparison, and negative messages about self-image, with many of them being exposed to a cultural narrative that doesn’t necessarily reflect the eternal narrative of our Creator.
But you can encourage fun, creative, and intimate opportunities for your girl to experience the value of building community, right in the privacy of your own home. This doesn’t have to mean searching for ultra Pinterest-y activities that burden you with more planning and clean up. This means engaging your girl in what interests her. Yes, that might mean you make a Tik Tok video with her but, before you start cringing, challenge yourself to see the opportunity for what it is: a chance to be in the conversation about what kind of content she creates and interacts with. How might she use that content for good? What responsibility does she have to affect culture online by sending positive messages that glorify God?
It will look different from home to home, but getting on her level, entering into her ‘world’, letting go of your own agenda to build an authentic connection is what this whole parenting thing is really about.
One way to start is to talk openly about your own fears and insecurities. Don’t be afraid to dive in deep. Your girl can learn how to be vulnerable by following your example. Through modeling, you can share your heart and find common ground with your girl.
For many years, I didn’t understand what real community was supposed to be. I grew up with two loving parents and a younger sister and we, as far as anyone could tell, had a normal family life. We were involved in activities, sports, and events with family and friends. All the regular stuff. What I realize now about my time as an adolescent and especially my teenage years is that healthy communication and honesty were seriously lacking in our house. I’m positive my parents didn’t teach me to think this way, but I grew up believing that if you shared your feelings you were weak. If you got hurt, you sucked it up and carried on and no one wanted to hear about it. You didn’t let anyone ‘in’ to your situation. You made it look really good on the surface and you kept everything hidden because you should be able to deal with everything on your own and with no outside help.
That is what culture tells our girls is normal . . . and it is right where the enemy wants us.
Isolated. Withdrawn. Bearing the weight of our burdens alone—because when we’re doing that, we are in our own heads, toiling and trying to problem solve on our own, we are missing one of our most important kingdom assignments: COMMUNITY.
God’s design for all of us is that we would be, work, and live together as ONE body. That we would endure and thrive in real community with one another. But that seems a little hard to do in the middle of a pandemic when we're being encouraged or required to stay apart . . .
What Does Real Community Look Like?
When we break down the word community (the English teacher in me can’t resist), we get the Latin prefix com which means “together” and the word unity which means “the quality or state of being one.”
The root word is communis: common, public, shared by all.
Now, the younger version of me hears the sound of that and is like, how fast can I run away? It was a point of pride for a long time for me to tell people “I’m not a sharer.” But the me of today understands the value and the part we all get to play when we enter into a community of people who share a common bond, belief, or goal.
There’s a beautiful picture of this in the book of Acts. After Jesus’ ascension, Peter addresses a crowd at Pentecost and a bit of time later heals a man who was lame for his entire life. The Sanhedrin don’t like the teaching or the miracle so they arrest Peter and John but they can’t really decide how to punish them so they let them go.
You can find the story in Acts chapter 4, verses 23-34 in a section called The Believers Pray and The Believers Share Their Possessions. Read it here.
This is a picture of community that is at total odds with what culture tells our girls. Culture says hoard the material and hide the mess, but when we do that we totally miss the rich relationships God designed us to enjoy.
So how do we teach our girls about real community, especially in the midst of being isolated from friends and loved one? Here are three of the most important lessons our girls* can learn about building community . . . even now.
*Although these ideas are based on what a girl needs most during this time, the need for community is also crucial to our boys! If you are a boy parent, ask God to show you how to apply this truth to his life too!
Community is a place to HEAL.
Our girls are taught that full and total independence is what defines a strong, successful woman. The perspective of “I know everything. I don’t need anyone’s help. I can do it by myself.” But the truth is that allowing others to share in our grief, fear, anxiety, and worry breaks down the walls of superficiality and creates space for real human connection. In times of trial and suffering that bring tears, there are also sweet moments to laugh and dream together about how God will use this period of struggle to make something new. While our girls are being separated from their community (for the most part) we can step in and guide them in finding connection right where they are. We can model what it means to lean into family—our home base—for authentic community and healing from disappointment, loss, and fear then branch out from there.
Community is a place to GROW.
“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” Abraham Maslow
The world tells women of all ages that our perspectives are our own and they don’t need to change; people should just learn to deal with it. But, mamas, that is not God’s way.
God wants to put us in situations that will shift, and sometimes radically transform, our perspectives—ones that will change our mindsets from selfishness to sacrifice, from earth to eternity. Community is where God will use other people to change your perspective and, in the process, He will change you.
Your girl will get to see first-hand the growth you experience, and she will use it to set the expectation for how growth happens in her own life. This life "interruption" does not need to interrupt the process. There are growth opportunities, even as life seems stagnant in this season. One way our girls (and we) can grow in this season . . . learning how to cultivate community when circumstances are less than ideal. You can lead her here, mama! How are you cultivating community right now? How can you encourage your girl to create connection at home and in her sphere?
Community is a place to SOW.
Community. It’s where we will plant seeds that bear good fruit in generations to come. I believe that none of this means anything if we can’t pass it on to the people who will carry forward our legacies long after we’re gone.
I think about the next generations of girls and what will awaken inside them when we, the adults who love them, give them a model for genuine community and authentic living.
How we live will determine our girls’ ability and confidence to rise above a culture that beats them down, that tells them to keep it all hidden, that being vulnerable means you’re pathetic and that sharing means you’re weak.
Community is where we will show the next generation what real life looks like, where they will watch us wait together, cry with, pray with, and encourage each other until Jesus returns and sets everything right. We have a unique space in time, right now, to be that community and model it with our daughters. While they don’t have access to all of their friends or social circles, we can show them what being in a healthy community looks like, what an ideal friend looks like, by being that for them.
That’s my prayer for all of us: that we would be Acts 4 women. Women who know the things we have are not our own. Women who share everything we have and raise our daughters to do the same.
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If you’re looking for additional resources and coaching on these exact challenges, I would love for you to join me in my Mentorship here. I’ll give you practical tools to navigate, nurture, and develop the young woman you’ve been called to lead.
Erin Weidemann is the founder of Truth Becomes Her, a brand that equips moms and women with resources to help them step into their unique leadership roles. A sought-after homeschool consultant, certified teacher, coach, and nationally-recognized speaker, Erin’s personal mission is to shift the conversation around feminine values from being beauty-driven, to a focus on inherent worth. An on-air personality for Air1 Radio, Erin delivers “59 Seconds of Hope” daily as well as hosts the Heroes For Her Podcast where she interviews positive female role models who are living out their passions in-line with their personal values.
She is the author of eight books, including the best-selling Bible Belles series, The Adventures of Rooney Cruz which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide.
Erin is a five-time cancer survivor, and lives and homeschools in San Diego, CA with her husband, Brent, and their daughter, Rooney.