Raising Children in Cohousing words of wisdom

I asked others about cohousing and raising kids and this is what they said…

“We don’t have any hard and fast rules about kid behavior. Most issues are dealt with as they come up. As people move and new people move in, expectations on kid behavior changes.”

“We’ve had teens with serious acting out issues that everyone has worked through with the parents and the children came out the other end as good community members.”

“One advantage of children is that they outgrow it. Just at the point that you begin thinking this has to stop, they got into the next phase.”

“I don’t think it would be super helpful to set up expectations before

move-in.  It’s really REALLY hard to tell what’s realistic until you are

there.  The issues we thought would come up (example: children’s nudity,

underage drinking) were often non-issues, and things we never anticipated

(nerf gun fights in the great room, not being gentle with our interior

glass doors) were.”

“Children are totally unique and their parents have many ideas about how children should be treated and what they should be allowed to do. I remember kids having different rules when I was kid, but I thought by 2000 in a liberal community there would be some agreement. Other than they are all invested in their children, there is almost no agreement. It was one of my surprises about cohousing.”

“And remember that most of the people are parents 0  not just the people who have babies and school children at home. Parents with adult children do know something about kids, and since they now have to live with yours, they should be involved in conversations to the extent that they desire.”

“None of our children went to the same schools. A couple of teens went to the same school for one year or so but otherwise not unless they were siblings. No car pools or homework clubs.”

“What might be helpful is low pressure conversations around topics:

1. If a child is allowed to jump and climb on furniture at home, should they be allowed to in the CH?

2. What do you think about indoor voices and outdoor voices? Are children’s voices uncontrollable and they should be free?

3. Who should correct a child ? the adult close by or only the parent? If your child is outside playing do you think other kids or adults should come get you to take care of it?

4. Should children be able to run in the common house, particularly when meals are taking place or people are sitting around talking? As in 10-20 children.

5. Should soda or other foods that parents don’t want their children to have be allowed in the CH? Should everyone agree on a good food standard?

6. Should children who are arguing or fighting be left to sort it out themselves or should adults help resolve the situation?

7. Can other adults occasionally give your children cookies, ice cream, or carrots without calling you first?

There are lots more questions. When I say low pressure, I mean with no effort to change anyone’s mind or make rules –  only to share thoughts. People will change over time when they hear the responses of others, and experience what living with a whole bunch of kids is like. It was a culture shock for some of  us when we had 20 children under 14, even those who had raised 2-3 children.”

Ted J Rau, consultant on Sociocracy and governance for cohousing communities, schools, and businesses let me interview him for my podcast. These are some of the highlights of our talk on raising children in cohousing:

He moved in so that his children would have more adults in their lives than just their parents.

It has been a success. His oldest couldn’t even decide on one adult to put on the school emergency from – all in the community were fine to call if she was scared, or hurt, or sick.

His youngest loves the woodshop, which he doesn’t do. Plus, doing something like that with a parent feels like a chore, but with another adult, it is exciting.

Cohousing reminds him of his childhood – having playmates nearby instead of driving around like in modern USA lifestyle.

One issue that  comes up quite a bit is inclusion. When two kids want to play on their own in the middle of the community. Creates tension. Some kids play better one on one. Others like a big crowd. Cohousing rewards those who like big crowds. Not for all kids.Their community negotiates this.

Other issues are the typical things. Some kids can’t eat sweets and others can. Some kids are not mandated to clean up days and others are. He feels that’s all negotiation.  In a community you can’t have rigid boundaries for your child – everyone gives a little.

For any conflict, their community uses Non Violent Communication. The children are trained in this too and everyone shares and listens to other considerations. For issues like wearing bike helmets, they had a fishbowl process and the adults could sit in it and they found that some grown ups weren’t wearing helmets either. Same with noise in the common house.

It was not true that kids are the only ones causing the volume. Sometimes kids find it too loud or uncomfortable. They discussed the issue for all ages.

As far as generation differences, all community members are trained in Non Violent Communication and one neighbor, Gina Simms wrote a book for children on it.   Their community listens to everyone, of all ages.

His community has been around since the 1990s so many have already seen things with their own children and the next “crop” of kids. The know not to take it personally. It’s not about your child or your parenting style.

Ted says every parent should take a deep breathe. And realize that other adults in the community may have ideas for your children that can help. He forgets that for the outside world, it’s not normal for their neighbor to be part of the decision making for other’s children but he, his former wife, and their current partners make decisions like camp with one neighbor who is like a grandparent to their children. She is part of their lives.

That means giving up some power and that’s hard for some but he is so grateful.  It might happen for others.  Be ready for that.

About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
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