The Family Project: Neighbor helping single mother aired
Q. I’m a single mother living in a small apartment building. A young woman, who I suspect is also a single mother, has just moved in with her toddler. I think she has a job, and the times I’ve seen her, she has looked very tired. We’ve never met. Would it be inappropriate for me to ask her if I could be of help?
“It would be very appropriate for this woman to reach out to her neighbor, especially since she thinks the neighbor might be isolated and alone,” panelist Denise Continenza said.
However, Continenza said that you can’t just jump in to help someone: “You need to start small by building a relationship with her.”
Panelist Pam Wallace agreed: “She needs to get to know the new neighbor first before asking to help. Invite her over for tea or dinner. That creates an opportunity to say, ‘I’m here if you need anything.’”
“In my experience, when you ask people if there is something you can do for them, there is a natural response is to say ‘No,’” panelist Chad Stefanyak said.
“If you really want to help, just do something neighborly to introduce yourself, such as taking her a pizza or a toy for the toddler as a way to welcome her to the building,” said Stefanyak.
“If there is a chance for conversation,” panelist Vince Confalone said, “there is a lot of power in self-disclosure, especially when someone is going through a similar struggle.
“Sharing could provide a safe space with the new neighbor, and a good way to solidify some success for bigger things down the road, like babysitting with the toddler,” said Confalone, who warned against oversharing.
Continenza also said to avoid the temptation to project one’s own reactions on the other person: “It sounds like the new neighbor may be isolated and alone, but don’t speculate. Not everyone needs to have the same level of relationships with other people.” Continenza cautioned that isolation is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect.
If the woman suspects that her new neighbor is dealing with more serious problems than just being tired, Confalone said she could help by suggesting some resources, such as Project Child.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Denise Continenza, extension educator, and Vince Confalone, Valley Youth House, family therapist.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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