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Many centres in the Triratna Community around the world have been successful in initiating family events and programs, but there are still many opportunities to expand on this - especially in those areas where these initiatives haven’t yet taken off. Here are a couple of great ways to get started:
1) Create a Local Network of Families
In your local sangha it’s helpful to first identify and connect with other parents. This can take the form of informal gatherings, play dates, swapping babysitting, or just simply making time to check in with other parents to see how their practice is going and offering support. If there aren’t many other families at your centre you may want to stretch out the network a bit further and join forces with parents at other centres in your region, or even connect online.
Take those opportunities to discuss with each other what your interests and needs are. If your network is small, then it may be enough just to build strong spiritual friendships with a handful of other parents and give each other support. For larger networks, how would your children like to engage with the sangha and what are their age ranges? What are your personal feelings about introducing your children to Buddhism? Are you looking to find extra time to practice alone or would you like to have your child present while you practice? What resources and skill sets are already available in your local sangha for working with children? Ask yourself and each other what it would look like to start creating some space for family in your sangha and in your personal Buddhist practice.
2) Taking the Initiative
If there isn’t much happening for children and families at your local centre, don’t assume that it’s because families are not welcome there! Centres are very busy places with many different demands - it’s an undertaking just running a basic program. Your centre leaders may not be aware that there is a desire for more family events unless you talk to them about it. Leaders may also be uncertain about how to begin children’s programming, or may feel they don’t have the resources themselves to lead it. Your local network of parents can help to get the conversation started, to identify what you would like to do, and even help to locate an Order member who could take the lead on making it happen.
Even if they aren’t personally the leader of events, it’s important to be in close communication with at least one Order member who can “sponsor” your new program. They will be an invaluable resource for teaching, organization, and representing families to the centre team. They will also be able to help you promote and plan programs and encourage opportunities to include children at events like festival days. Leaders should ideally have experience with children, they should be well-versed in basic Buddhism, and should be able to speak to how we practice Buddhism in the Triratna community. It’s also important that leaders are well-known and trusted by the centre team and understand the centre’s safeguarding policies.
Centres and Order members leading children’s events may benefit from joining the Centre & Leader Family Resources group to learn more about how other centres run their programs, so encourage them to become a member!
We hope that this introduction is helpful!
For those who have existing programs at their centres, we would love to hear in the comments below how you got started and if you have any tips!