How family-friendly is YOUR tower?

Thanks to Tina Stoecklin for giving permission for her ideas to be published on this site. Extra ideas from members of the Guild are in italices. Please add your ideas at the bottom of the page!

Most hobbies do take a big  time commitment, and so unless all the
family does bellringing as its main or only activity (so very unlikely), there will be other hobbies competing for that time. Each time a child takes on an activity, it represents a potential time sink for at least one parent, because of extra time going to matches, concerts, plus making teas, manning raffle booths and so on and so on. Continuing to ring in the face of all this other competition is not easy. We have managed it, because it is something that we love (and hope our children will also love), but it is not easy to do, takes quite a lot of juggling, and is only possible because of the patient cooperation and understanding of the rest of the band.

And if I can head off any sanctimonious comments about modern parenting or overindulging children’s activities, every family makes their own choice as to how they spend their free time, and we have to respect that choice. We will get fewer families participating if we make that choice hard or get preachy about it.

There are things a tower can do to make the choice easier, and involve a surprisingly little effort on the part of the rest of the band:

  1. Actually be welcoming to children. We have visited towers where our
    children were viewed with a certain amount of discomfort, while at others were disappointed that we hadn’t brought them. You don’t need to offer a creche, just be nice.
  2. Understand if someone can’t come regularly for whatever reason, and be welcoming when they do. “Hello Stranger!” is not as welcoming as you might think.
  3. If someone can’t come Sunday ringing on a regular basis, they may be willing to be asked for special occasions, and it is worth asking.
  4. Let the children have a wee go. Chiming a bell is possible for any
    child (possibly with help) and perfectly safe. Also handbells are good.
  5. Try to make it easy to return to ringing if they take a break, so try to stay in touch occasionally.  Encouraging them to join the Guild/District Facebook group or an email group takes care of this very painlessly. 
  6. Sometimes do social things that don’t involve a pub, or don’t involve only a pub.

Other good ways to engage children too young be ringers yet:

  • involve them in helping tidy up (stack books, sort ringing worlds.
  • let them help with the rope spider
  • let them see the bells
  • give them a camera
  • let them be (or help be) runners for weddings etc
    – let them “chime” a bell before the service.

Many of these points apply equally to other groups of people, not just
families. Fewer people work ‘normal’ working days than previously, and
shifts and contract work can wreak havoc on regular attendance. Making it easier to come when it is possible to come means you have more chance of that happening.

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