For parents, the communities in which we choose to raise our children can and should be an important consideration before selecting a home. It’s not as easy as simply choosing a home in the suburbs or the city. As parents, we want to choose a community that will have a positive effect on the social, emotional and academic development of our children. Too often a home that is chosen for price or the size of the lot doesn’t provide a supportive structure to encourage strong neighborhood connections that actually make our communities safer and more enjoyable. neighborhood feeling that we long for.
A beautiful home, or an efficient condominium or apartment isn’t what makes a neighborhood special. People make neighborhoods special when they have the means to contribute and participate in activities designed to build community.
A movement called “new urbanism” is setting out to change the way we think of community by looking back to our past when the human factor was more important…when we knew our neighbors and took great joy in being involved in neighborhood activities.
In today’s communities, with video games and parents traveling long commutes to and from work, the typical family is pulled in ways that make us feel isolated. Parents complain that their homes are just becoming a place to sleep and maintain. They are also concerned about the health of their children given the relative lack of healthy spontaneous outside activity that defines childhood today. Children aren’t able to play outside with the freedom they use to because parents fear strangers might harm them. The video game and TV have sadly become babysitters for busy parents.
New urbanism is a backlash against this isolation and unhealthy community life. It’s a move to take back our communities and to seek out ways to make our neighborhoods safer and friendlier for kids, entrepreneurs, green living and a thriving cultural life.
Women have been key influencers in this movement to better quality living since they often make the decision regarding where the families lives. As nurturers women have also taken on the responsibility for improving the health of all family members. Their demands for safer neighborhoods with more opportunities for children and adults to exercise and lead healthier lives has helped to shape the types of “living products” home builders are designing for today’s families.
New home builders, city planners, community and political leaders are putting into place initiatives that support safer more attractive and affordable urban development and re-development options for families. We see old cities coming alive again with new home developments designed to attract traditional families, single parents, entrepreneurs, young professionals and others who want to live closer to where they work and to urban cultural offerings (e.g. ballet, theater, art galleries and city parks).
Our suburbs are also teeming with new urbanism communities that respond to the suburban parents’ desire for friendlier communities, cultural town centers, and activities that encourage walking, biking and a real neighborhood feeling.
Parents really have an impact on the personality of our communities. The parenting role is very demanding and anything that helps to support this important work will get their attention–the new urbanism movement has gotten their attention.
This movement appeals to the eco-sensitive parents, the health-conscious parents and really any parent concerned with having the healthiest most stimulating environment in which to raise their children.
Politicians, builders and developers should look to parents as an important constituency and consumer group that is helping to shape the next generation and parents need to recognize the power they hold as consumers. Here’s a trend that’s more than fad — it’s a blueprint to a bright future for us all.