A Caring Neighborhood

Young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate, and accept them. The fourth asset in the support category is “A Caring Neighborhood.”

The idea is that each young person will experience caring neighbors. In this day and age, it is not unusual for people to be strangers to the people who live next door or across the street. Can you name the children under the age of 18 who live within a block of your place of residence? Can you call each by name when you see them out playing or riding/walking past your house? In our busy lives, it is easy to focus on our own family and not think about those around us.

• Are there people in your life who have always supported you through hard times? Who are they? How do they support you?

• Do you know a young person who doesn’t seem to have a lot of support from adults outside her or his family? What can you do to reach out to him or her?

One message that all youth want adults to learn is “Never give up on me; try to understand me.” Three of the 40 questions youth were asked to respond to in the survey conducted by the Search Institute were:

My neighbors encourage and support me. They care about me.

I feel safe at home, at school, and in the neighborhood. Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring my behavior.

Would all of the youth on your block respond yes to each of these statements?

A month after our family moved into our Ames neighborhood, a flyer was delivered to our home. It was an announcement for the annual Tyler Street block party. What a wonderful way to get acquainted and to feel welcomed! For years, neighbors automatically marked the Sunday after Labor Day on their new calendars. Over the years, I observed more blockades set up on various days around the city; a sure sign of neighbors getting together. As a result of the block party and thoughtful neighbors, the children in the neighborhood felt safe and cared for. All of our youth deserve to live in this kind of environment. Unfortunately, only 40% of 6th to 12th grade youth respond with a positive. The world should be an inviting, not a threatening, place for our children. Everyone has a role in helping youth develop. Remember that all kids are our kids. There are actions all of us can take to ensure all of our youth grow up in a caring environment.

Here are some ideas - you might want to try at least one of them: Learn the names of your neighbors of all ages.

Treat all neighbors with respect and courtesy; expect them to treat you the same way.

Start or join a neighborhood watch or block club. For our youth:

Ask a parent or guardian to introduce you to neighbors you don’t know. Volunteer to help a neighbor with chores around his or her home (such as yard work or pet care).

Visit with other young people about what’s good about where you live and ways you could help improve the neighborhood.

Adults:

Take time to visit with the young people on your block or in your building.

Offer to help a young neighbor with a project or task.

Let youth know when their behavior is inappropriate or out-of-bounds (with appropriate voice and control).

Like most people in her neighborhood, Linda Staats wanted to ignore the two teenage boys who lived next door. They dressed in black and dyed their hair “creatively.”  They didn’t fit into the norms of the neighborhood, so neighbors assumed the worst. One day, though, Linda decided to take a risk and go over to talk with them when they were outside. She was amazed to learn that they-like her son who had moved away from home-were astronomy buffs and owned a telescope. “I realized,” she recalls, “that I could have missed out on a great relationship with some really interesting kids.”

Take time to be a good neighbor and get to know the children in your area. Their future is in our hands and you’ll be glad you took the risk.