As a mother of a 13-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, I am reminded everyday of how times have changed. Long gone are the days where all the neighborhood kids actually played outside. Most of our streets are no longer full of bicycles and hop scotch boards, jump ropes and hula hoops. We are all so consumed with work, sports and electronic devices that many neighborhoods have lost the close knit, family feeling they once had. That doesn't have to be true of your neighborhood. Here are four ways I've found to make today’s neighborhoods feel more family-friendly:
1. Know your neighbors
Make a list of the names and phone numbers of every neighbor on your block. Know whether they work during the day, whether they have children or pets and what they look like. It’s okay to be a little nosy. You should have a way to reach your neighbors if they are gone and you see any out of the ordinary or suspicious behavior around their house. Hopefully they will do the same for you in the event you are away from home. In my neighborhood we have a call tree. Every neighbor has a number they call to pass on important information. We use our call tree to let everyone know about things like new babies, planned events or deaths in the family.
2. Plan neighborhood events
Plan neighborhood events that get folks involved. My neighborhood does a great job of organizing fun events. We do a bi-annual neighborhood yard sale. The kids get involved with making signs and putting them out. The adults get inspired to clean out things they don’t need, and the most fun part of all is going door-to-door to check out everybody else’s stuff. We also do cookouts and lawn mower races to name a few. Other ideas may be Halloween carnivals, a block dance party, neighborhood cleanup day or holiday caroling. The possibilities are endless but the end result is the same: a feeling of camaraderie.
3. Start a Care Force
A neighborhood Care Force is a great way to get kids involved with helping the good of the neighborhood. All neighborhoods have elderly or handicapped members that can use extra help. The Care Force is a group of neighborhood children that organize and perform acts of kindness and provide help to those in need. These tasks can include – rolling the trash can to the curb and back, walking pets, picking up sticks in the yard or sweeping the porch. Older children could help with more difficult tasks like mowing the lawn or weed eating (with adult supervision). Kindness is a win-win scenario which produces beneficial effects in the giver and the recipient. The Care Force is a sure fire way to improve the close knit feeling of any neighborhood.
4. Commit to staying
Let your roots grow deep. This kind of long-term commitment can help make a group of houses feel like a family. Stable neighborhoods are built on the commitment of residents who would rather live in a close knit community than move up to a bigger house.
Don’t stop at these four things. Do whatever else you can think of to make your neighborhood great. Having an enjoyable place to live and raise a family is what we all want, but we have to remember it takes effort. Living in a good neighborhood isn’t a right, it’s a responsibility.
Pictured by the Arbor Bluffs Sign: Heather's 10-year-old daughter and her neighbor.