You know how it goes … you sit on the sidelines/in the bleachers/poolside for your children’s practices, week after week with the same people. First, you acknowledge each other with a smile. Then after a few returned smiles you might comment on something one of your kids did. Before much time passes, you’ve covered your life story, your dog’s medical history, and a detailed account of your first date. It was a similar experience I had during my kids’ swim practices that allowed me to meet Jessica,a graduate professor of administrative social work and director of a program targeting disenfranchised communities.

On a whim, I asked her, from a community social work perspective, “What is it that you would most like to communicate to parents?” And unwittingly created the perfect example!

Her answer blew me away.

Social Capital

Social capital is the idea of “building your team,” knowing people, and building community. Our relationships positively affect an outcome in our lives. The more people a person knows well, the more social capital they have. Social capital they can later use to get financial advice, borrow a truck, or find out how to apply to graduate school. For example, once we became friends, I was able to ask Jessica about advice for parents and not only learn something new, but pass it on in this article. And from this point on, if I have a situation that calls for a social worker, a graduate professor, community worker, or a swim team parent, I will reach out to her.

For the most part, building social capital doesn’t take money. It takes a time and energy commitment because true friendships are reciprocal. Take the time to build quality relationships. Instead of pulling out your phone for the entire practice, talk to the other parents. Introduce yourself to your neighbors and get to know them. Then, when your dog escapes, they are already invested in your life. They know you. They know Fido. They want to help.

What does this have to do with parenting?

You and your child will be involved with a certain community for a large portion of their childhood: their school. Jessica most wanted parents to know the value of parental involvement in their child’s school. Not only because it helps out, but because every connection you form builds social capital for you and your children. Any situation that arises, from a forgotten lunch to a traumatic emergency, will be less dramatic because you have already formed those relationships. People, directly involved in nurturing and instructing your child, are invested in you as well.

But, I don’t teach!

You may have previously avoided going on campus because you feel inadequate. If anything, Jessica’s assertion tells us that it isn’t about what we are doing. You could cut laminated folders or copy worksheets. The important part is that you are THERE and getting to know people while you do it. Every one benefits!