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As little as four decades ago, it was common for Americans to know their neighbors. Homeowners and apartment dwellers knew their neighbors on a first name basis. Young children played with neighboring children, engaging in street races, jump rope,stick ball or flag football. Go back generations and you'd see adult neighbors visiting each other's homes, playing cards, sitting lemonade and chatting and laughing on the front porch.
American neighbors have changed so much over the years
It was as if the entire neighborhood was one big family. Today, few Americans know their neighbors first names, let alone take the time to engage in a sincere conversation with their neighbors. Busy schedules, choosing technology over in-person connections and reports of neighborhood crimes are some of the reasons why Americans erect invisible fences and keep neighbors out.
Coming out of the Great Depression, Americans may have sought and found solace in relationships that they developed with their neighbors. A similar shift happened after 9/11. People accepted each other more readily, even turning away from long held prejudices. But, the neighboring effect only lasted a few weeks.
Don't turn your neighbors into strangers
It's not hard to realize the benefits of developing and nurturing healthy relationships with neighbors. Yet, these relationships don't just happen. To create healthy neighborhood relationships, you need to:
- Speak with neighbors each time that you see them (This means that you don't only speak with neighbors when you want them to do you a favor or when you're on your way to church.)
- Offer to help neighbors when you the need arrives (For example, you could offer to assist neighbors if they're struggling to carry groceries onto their front porch. You could also offer to help neighbors during weather storms.)
- Support neighborhood and community initiatives (Examples of this includes attending city council meetings, joining community preservation organizations and attending community festivals and holiday events.)
Support neighbors. Develop healthy relationships with neighbors without over stepping healthy boundaries. Specific boundaries that your neighbors want vary person to person. For example, some neighbors may prefer to keep relationships at a distance. Other neighbors may enjoy chatting each time they see you.
You really don't have to argue and fight with neighbors
To create healthy neighborhood boundaries you can engage in conversations with neighbors when you see each other outside. You can excuse yourself when you notice that neighbors are hurrying to get inside their house or are hurrying to get to an event away from home.
By teaching your children to call before they stop by a neighbor's house, you can prevent your neighbors from feeling uneasy when you happen upon each other. If neighbors know that you won't stop by without calling first, they can feel confident that they can let their hair down while they're at home. They know that neighbors won't stop by unannounced.
To create healthy neighborhood boundaries, you may also have to train your pets. Stop your pets from relieving themselves in neighboring yards. Pick up after you pets if they relieve themselves while you're walking them around the neighborhood.
These boundaries demonstrate to neighbors that you respect them. It's this respect that helps relationships to develop in healthy, rewarding ways.
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