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Being a good neighbor is very nearly a lost art! Teaching kids to deal with neighbors in a kind, friendly and safe way is still important, however.
The world can be a lonely place. Having someone close by that will look out for you and that you can do the same for is becoming more important than ever.
What does being a good neighbor mean? It does not mean being nosy. It doesn’t mean imposing, gossiping, or complaining. It means having a friendly and protective outlook on your community, whether a city of four million, a town of two thousand or a village of five hundred.
Teaching your child about being a good neighbor means taking responsibility for preparing the next generation to live peaceably in a sometimes scary world. If we don’t teach them, who will?
Young children are part of their community and have a stake in developing good social skills. Being able to relate with those around us in a non-inflammatory way is basic to good human interaction. Teach your child to speak in a respectful and polite manner with everyone they encounter.
You relay a powerful message when you behave in a neighborly way. Children generally follow your lead. Waving “Hello”, and giving a simple greeting shows your openness to others. Stopping to exchange a few words when you are on a stroll or when you meet by chance at the grocery store will show your child that it is normal to take the time to acknowledge a neighbor.
If the opportunity arises, invite a neighbor and their little one over for a visit. It will give your child a chance to play and involve you both in the community you live in.
As you prepare your child for school, remember to let them get acquainted with some of the children they may ride the bus with or carpool with. It may help make the transition to school easier if he or she recognizes a neighbor.
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Young school age children are usually outgoing and love to be with other children. Having other children living in your apartment house, on your street or down the road seems an open invitation to kids 6 to 9. Taking the time to seek out youngsters who will be kind, fun and safe playmates will involve getting to know your neighbors.
Children this age are very curious about the details of the lives of others. Teach them the difference between interest and being nosy. There are certain things you do not ask a neighbor about- their finances, family circumstances, and other private details. Monitoring visits at this age is important for this reason. They will also learn from watching and listening to you!
Teach your child to respect property boundaries. Playing in a neighbor’s yard or walking through it is not okay unless they have been invited to do so and have gained permission.
Noise can be a matter of contention, especially in apartment living. Have specific “quiet times” designated so that neighbors will not have to deal with loud music or jumping on their ceiling!
If a neighbor has a complaint about your child, make sure to calmly get the facts and problem-solve in a reasonable way. Neighbor relations are the same as any other relationship- periodic maintenance is required.
School is a great arena for learning how to interact with folks you have not necessarily chosen to be around. Basic consideration, thoughtfulness and manners go a long way toward coexisting peaceably.
If you have occasion to help a neighbor in need, you will be providing your child with an important life lesson. Reaching out to others will help your child know we are all connected to each other and that we are all responsible for making our little piece of the planet a happier and friendlier place.
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Older school age children will have developed polite manners and know how to behave appropriately with people they do not know well. The lessons in being a good neighbor will differ from those they learned when younger.
You may have to teach your child about gossiping. Engaging in discussion about others when they do not know all the facts, or when something is not their business invites trouble and can be cruel. Many neighbors have feuded over something that started as a careless comment. Let your child know that it is better not to say anything if they can’t say something nice!
Children this age need to be reminded to report anything to you that has occurred with a neighbor that has frightened them or made them uncomfortable. Trust their instincts- and your own. If you know or feel a neighbor is not a safe person for your child to be around, don’t be afraid to forbid interaction with that person. Not all neighbors are okay. You may want to check with authorities to see if there are any convicted sex offenders in your area.
If your family has a pet, take care to keep your pet out of the neighbors’ yards. Clean up their droppings and don’t let your dog disturb neighbors with barking. Cats can be a nuisance if they dig in other people’s flower beds.
Your child is old enough to participate in some kind of community service. Initiating a yard cleanup day for the older folks in your neighbor will teach your child the meaning of reaching out. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter are other ways to help out. Teaching kids to use some of their time and talents for the good of the community will stick with them as they grow.
Looking out for others is one of the benefits of living in a friendly neighborhood. Letting neighbors know if something unusual has happened or volunteering to pick up the mail or the paper for them are little things that mean a lot.
Being a good neighbor is more than being considerate of the person across the hall or the family down the street. It means remembering that we are all connected and what one person does or doesn’t do affects all of us. Young people grow to be big people. Teaching your child about being a good neighbor now just might help the world to become a more positive place to live!
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Posted in Character.