Remember the "good old days" when people sat on their front porches discussing the latest news and politics? Today's families tend to be busier and connect through social media, making those front porch talks almost a thing of the past. Yet the need to feel connected hasn't changed. A strong sense of community is like an anchor, giving a deep sense of security to children and families.
Many cities and neighborhood organizations actively work to foster community, but individual families are really at the heart of creating "neighborly" neighborhoods.
How to Build Relationships with Neighbors
Below are a few simple suggestions for your family:
- Lend a hand. Make a point to be more aware of what's going on in your neighborhood. No, this doesn't mean becoming nosy. Just be aware of your neighbors' comings and goings and watch for opportunities to reach out. For example, if an elderly neighbor's driveway is piled with snow, grab some snow shovels and head on over. Offer to help change a tire or jump a dead car battery. Take a meal to a neighbor during an illness or when a new baby arrives. These simple gestures create friendships, and they send a powerful message to children that "we watch out for each other."
- Find meaningful ways to connect. Sit outside and visit with a neighbor while your children make sidewalk chalk art together. Walk to school with neighboring families or start a neighborhood book club (either for children or adults). Strike up a conversation at the park or deliver a treat to a family that's just moved in to your neighborhood. We often tend to stay in our own social circles, afraid to initiate a relationship. It only takes one person to make the first move, though, and the effort is almost always appreciated.
- Express appreciation. Your neighbors aren't the only members of your neighborhood. How about the service workers who help every day? Be sure to wave and say thank you to mail carriers, trash disposal workers, and delivery people. Although most companies don't allow service workers to accept large gifts, you can certainly offer small tokens of appreciation. How about a gift card to a coffee shop or some hand warmers and gloves during the winter months? These small gestures create goodwill and teach children the art of simple generosity.
- Celebrate special moments. Holidays and special occasions are an ideal time to reach out to neighbors. Help organize neighborhood activities around these events, such as a harvest festival in the fall, a 4th of July parade, or a Back to School brunch. Consider the cultural and religious diversity of your neighborhood as you plan.
Media reports often depict the world as a scary, hostile place - not really the view we want our children to take. Getting to know the people in our community creates a healthier, more balanced perspective. Neighbors are almost always people who are just people - human and imperfect, but generally trustworthy, generous, and very much worth knowing.
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