Kids in Cohousing

If you’ve ever found parenting challenging (wry smile)
...but have the time to read this (wider smile) may have landed in the right spot.
Yes, every generation of parents absolutely faces its own peculiar set of challenges, but today’s seem particularly daunting, at least to this particular first-time parent.

Any of these concerns sound familiar?  How in the world can I:

  • Reduce screen time & increase real-life, in person, interactions… to combat my child’s seeming sedentary isolation?
  • Develop & protect the mental health of my child… especially to somehow avoid the increasingly all too common anxiety & depression?
  • Provide a truly quality education… one that’s affordable, inclusive and challenging?
  • Meaningfully do my part to help ensure that there’s still a healthy planet around for them… so that they may live a healthy, full, wonderful life?
  • Grow their interpersonal skills… to best prepare them for the road ahead?
  • Better take care of myself… since all my energy currently goes towards my children?
  • Come anywhere close to doing all of this!?!Historically, the answer to these challenges was met with some variation of the familiar:  “It takes a village…”  But, today it seems much harder to find that willing, capable village.  When parents do search, today one potential answer is found in the growing number of cohousing developments.  (Over 165 in the US, with another 140 in various stages of development.)

    Yes, it’s a rather bold claim, that somehow a type of housing development, this idea of cohousing, might uniquely be able to help with any or all these parenting challenges.  In fact, cohousing started… some 5 decades ago… specifically as a way to create a better childhood for kids. (2)  Well, here’s how there might actually be something to this… that where you live & how you live there… can absolutely help:

Child playing with legos
Making relationships at any point in life is difficult for most of us, but my child spends so much more time alone at home than I did as a kid. And I, myself, feel especially isolated now as a parent because of its singular demands? How can cohousing help?

As with many challenges, simply simplifying can help… a lot. In the case of relationships, in cohousing they’re simplified by proximity. It’s easier to be a genuine neighbor, if you actually see your neighbor. Then, imagine if you were confident that your neighbor actually wanted the same thing you did: a genuine, robust neighborly relationship. This is the simple magic sauce of cohouisng. You… and your children… are well on your way to meaningful, truly supportive relationships, if the people across from you desire the same thing.


From the outside, this building looks like any other condo, so how specifically is the building designed to foster relationships?

A cohousing development slightly reduces the square footage of private space to increase the square footage of meaningful, unique common space. We certainly do this with:

  • Over 4300 square feet of common space… mostly located on the top floor.
  • Large kitchen and dining area… designed specifically with the intent to have some arrangement of recurring meals together.
  • Specifically for kids… a dedicated, adjoining children’s playroom, with ample toy storage.
  • Significant rooftop garden… where kids can both play in the dirt and start to understand exactly where food comes from… which, research has shown us, grows your “child’s brain, body and soul.” (5)
  • Generous patio that invites outdoor play.
  • And finally, there’s the usual building communal space… smaller rooms to… exercise, watch or listen to entertainment, read, play games, hold a meeting, or simply relax together. But, the simple difference here is that we actually intend to regularly use this space together. Again, the magic sauce: shared intent.

How does our location, Oak Park, IL, significantly aid the search for quality schools?

  • School Rankings: The public system is organized around its high school, Oak Park & River Forest HS… designated by the state as an “exemplary” school… meaning it ranks in the top 10% of all IL high schools… with its 95% graduation rate & 55% AP participation.
  • Diversity: Oak Park is known for its diverse community, and it’s reflected in its public schools. The high school accomplishes its stellar rating while being one of the most racially diverse suburban districts in the state… securing it a well-earned reputation for promoting inclusivity & broad cultural awareness.
  • Community Involvement: The larger Oak Park community places a strong emphasis on education… meaning there’s legit, active community support of the public schools. Equally strong arts and sports programs dot the town. Civic and parent groups work hand in hand with the schools. This might be best exemplified by the award winning Collaboration for Early Childhood.

Speaking of education… what will my children learn living in such a community?

If you believe the best education comes from exposure to diverse ideas and beliefs held by diverse people… you will find that very mix between our walls.

Not surprisingly, our community already includes many families & individuals who have lived lives that have always valued relationships, community and the greater good… even before they were ever introduced to the idea of cohousing. As a result, among your neighbors, not surprisingly, there are several educators… from early education right on up through higher ed. More than one are very civic-minded… being longstanding members of various Oak Park organizations. While some have valued Oak Park so highly they’ve called it home for their entire lives… others hail from both coasts and even beyond.

For kids, this means actual inter-generational relationships… meaningful, trusted and caring… with many adults & seniors but also, wonderfully, with kids of various ages. Children will find willing playmates, readers, tutors, storytellers and caregivers among the neighbors they meet at meals, in the hallways and on the rooftop.

Each neighbor is unique… in occupation, race, religion, national culture and interests. But all share the same commitment… to creating real community trust & support… while sharing the joys and challenges of life.

As a result, schools have specifically observed that kids raised in a cohousing setting, not surprisingly, are… particularly adept at sharing, problem-solving, conflict resolution & group decision-making. (2) That they’re very open and self confident kids… since they can actually have more independence here… being allowed to move around alone in a large, safe setting.

You promised me cohousing could help save the planet for this child I love. How so?

  • Most impactful… it’s in how the entire building itself is being built… to achieve The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Silver rating.6 The NGBS rigorously defines what it means to be a “green building”… covering 6 areas of high-performance building practices:
    • Lot design & development
    • Resource efficiency
    • Water efficiency
    • Energy efficiency – Heat Pump Split System; Induction Ranges
    • Indoor environmental quality
    • Building operation and maintenance
  • Secure bike racks… to help enable regular biking.
  • Nearby public transportation… to minimize car usage. Two Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) elevated rail lines (Blue and Green), the Metra (Union Pacific West Line) train, PACE and CTA bus lines serve Oak Park. (8)
  • Built-in, home electric car charging stations… to aid in the transition to EVs.
  • Smaller environmental footprint… by living in a dense, very walkable urban environment. In fact, Oak Park is the most walkable city in IL. (7)
  • Rooftop garden… with truly local vegetables… and native perennials for pollinators!
  • Future solar panel installation.

I hear you say cohousing is genuinely supportive… simply neighbors helping neighbors… but what are some concrete examples of this as it relates to parenting?

It’s a lot of the predictable; it’s just that it’s all much more readily accessible and, most importantly, expected and desired. Again, the magic sauce: your neighbors expect to be asked for help; and, yes, they actually want to be asked. Helping each other with the seemingly mundane stuff of life in a way kinda sums up why we’re all here. And, ever notice how it’s usually much easier to help someone else than yourself? (smile) Need:

  • A trusted babysitter?
  • A dog walked?
  • A cup of milk?
  • A quick ride here or there to make parental logistics work today?
  • Someone else to cook for a change?
  • Advice on today’s challenge from another parent who’s definitely “been there before?”
  • Help cleaning up yet another toy explosion
  • To simply feel comfortable… confident… in asking neighbors that genuinely care… to keep a watchful eye for a time?
  • Some time around actual adults for yourself… some way too rare self-care?

Toys, toys, toys. I’m already surrounded by them, and yet still somehow buying and acquiring more. Cohousing sounds wonderful, can it even help here?

Maybe. One defining element of cohousing communities is figuring out how to best leverage shared items. It’s driven by a desire for a smaller environmental footprint… for help being less materialistic… and by basic sensible economics. Just as there’s no need for every household to own a vacuum or every tool under the sun… a lot of parenting and child rearing essentials can be shared or simply handed down.

I’m already maxed out by parenting, what if I feel I don’t have much more capacity to give a larger community?

Many benefits of cohousing highlighted here come directly from being a diverse, inter-generational community. That means we very much want… even need… families, with children of all ages, to feel warmly welcomed. That’s done, in part, by understanding the commitment and workload of parenting. Yes, we want to live among people committed to the potential of living together in a community. But still, how and when you interact with your larger community is flexible and determined by your availability and capacity, just as it is for everyone, everyday.

OK, I’m sold on cohousing, but why should I consider Oak Park specifically for my family? What does the larger community offer parents and children?

Parks – It’s in the very name!


New York Times – “Does Co-Housing Provide a Path to Happiness for Modern Parents?”

“Children need 100 parents”

Romper – “The Cohousing Community That Saved Me From Parenting Isolation” – Romper

“I’m a single mom who shares a house with other single moms. My cohousing friendships deliver emotional support, good advice, and yacht vacations.”

PBS – “Gardening With Kids: How It Affects Your Child’s Brain, Body and Soul”

“The NGBS Green Promise”

Redfin – “The 10 Most Walkable Cities in Illinois”