Special thanks to Embrey Mill for sponsoring today’s post and for creating a shining example of the ideal family community.
Choosing the right family community is one of the best ways to ensure your family’s happiness. The setting in which our children grow up lays the foundation for their values and behavior. It’s our responsibility as parents to make sure that the setting is safe, comfortable, and inspiring.
Many of us work hard to make our homes the ideal environment for a happy family. We should put equal effort into making sure our home is in a community that reflects the climate inside our homes.
As part of a military family, I’ve been fortunate to live in what I considered the ideal family community. Our neighborhood in Camp Lejeune was like living in the “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhood. In fact, whenever I run into one of our old neighbors, we reminisce about what a magical time and place it was.
Recently I experienced that same sense of nostalgic, wholesome American small town culture in a local Stafford, VA neighborhood. The community development, known as Embrey Mill, had so many of the same features as our base neighborhood.
The right family community for me isn’t necessarily the right one for you (e.g. rural vs urban, open vs. heavily treed), but those that are ideal for families do have many of the same features.
Here are the things you should look for in addition to your personal preferences.
If you read many of my posts, you know I write a lot about healthy family habits. It’s so important for all aspects of our health (physical, mental, and emotional) to be physically active.
Sidewalks make it so much easier for kids and parents to get outside and move. They provide safe areas for us to walk, roller skate, and bike (where allowed). They invite you to explore your neighborhood. They provide opportunities to meet and interact with your neighbors.
In my local area, sidewalks are rare. Embrey Mill is notably different from most of our local neighborhoods because it contains sidewalks throughout the development.
Sidewalks make it easy for you to explore your neighborhoods, and playgrounds give you a destination. If you have kids, you know the excitement a child experiences when they see a playground. The best type of exercise is the kind that is fun! Playgrounds are the perfect setting for kids to be active. When the playground is within your own neighborhood, it’s also a safe and welcoming setting.
Embrey Mill has one of the cutest play areas I’ve seen. It’s called Racetrack park. In addition to plenty of play features, it includes a racetrack (complete with stoplight) where kids can ride their bikes safely while mom and dad watch from one of the picnic tables or outdoor chairs.
One of the best ways to prepare our children for a successful future is to teach them how to get along with others. What better way to do this than to socialize together with other families? Ideally, your community will have areas designed for gatherings to make it easier to socialize.
When we lived on base, we were within two blocks of the community pool. soccer fields, and picnic area. Embrey Mill is set up very similar with community areas spread throughout the development. The community contains a pool, fitness center, café, dog park, and sports fields. There’s something for everyone.
Even if a community has lots of features that entice its members to mingle, the best family communities help facilitate interaction by hosting community events.
Embrey Mill has an outdoor amphitheater area where they host outdoor movies.
The day I went to explore Embrey Mill, they were setting up for a community fall festival. That weekend, my kids participated in the Halloween 5k and Monster Mile the community hosted. Here’s my daughter with her BFF (inside the community center before the race).
What a fun family event! So many families dressed up in themed costumes. My personal favorite was the super hero family (it’s no secret I love superheroes!). Baby was sleeping in the stroller, but here are mom and dad:
This last criterion is hard to capture in pictures. You know when you find the right family community because it will FEEL right. Walking through Embrey Mill, I had the same sense of happiness and security that I felt when we lived on base in Camp Lejeune.
Before you choose the community where you will raise your children, make sure you spend time exploring it. Go during the hours when people are out and about (after dinner or on a Saturday).
Pay attention to how the community members interact. Do they wave at one another and greet each other warmly? Do you feel happy there? Do your kids light up as they explore the neighborhood? If you answer yes to these questions, chances are you’ve found the right community for your family.