I love reading old Communities magazines. It comes with a membership of Foundations of Intentional Communities. It seems like the old adage – the more things change, the more stay the same. Same issues then as now with communities.
In 1975 they did a review of what they had learned about intentional communities so far. This is one thing they wrote:
“Ideally intentional communities should be marvelous settings for children: the biological mother would not be so exclusively and often overwhelmingly responsible for the child-rearing process, for there would be a number of adults capable for giving love, paying attention, and helping the children learning many diverse ways. What we have seen in communities with children, however, appears to be a tendency for community creating and maintaining to take precedence over child-rearing. Obviously it takes a great deal of time and energy to create a community and to make it somewhat self-sustaining, and the voices of children are often heard last. Unless the community makes a concerted effort to focus on child-rearing, or unless it has already become cohesive and economically secure, there seems to be the possibility that its children will suffer some neglect”
Obviously this wasn’t about cohousing. That hadn’t existed yet and they only ask 10 hours a month or something along those lines for community work hours. Yet, kids can be included or not in a community depending on their attitudes. When my eldest was a toddler I looked up communes online. I had always dreamed of joining one and thought it’d be a great place to raise a child cooperatively. When I got in touch with one community they said they don’t really think about the kids. Kids are an after thought. I was shocked.
There were other posts from people wanting to form a community based on attachment parenting. They directed me to places like that.
Now after living in cohousing I could see how that happens. Many communities want to be multi-generational, but the discussions around it and the feel of the community can vary from place to place. It seems like it’d be ideal for children but there can be some pitfalls. Super varying parenting styles so much so that your concerns are not shared with the other parents and kids can seriously hurt each other. Low supervision so much so that kids destroy property and invade privacy of all ages of residents (again, depending how the parents or community responds it could be problematic or not). I have heard that “every intentional community” has sexual abuse and that is unacceptable to me but I see how it could be true. The secrecy of not wanting to share your concerns with others because you want to respect other adult’s privacy. Accusing some of being “paranoid” if they do worry about an adult’s interaction with kids. And denial that kids under 18 can sexually hurt other kids. Hard discussions no one wants to have but the more communities that do, the better for their health and the children’s safety.
I found a great resource for that. They discuss how to have these hard discussions, what to do if you don’t like how an adult is interacting with your child, and what to do if a child acts out sexually. It’s called Stop it Now. Check it out. They even do trainings for communities and have counselors on call for email or phone questions.