Raising Kids in the City

I was raised in New York City. Often, I meet people who express shock and concern at this. On a few occassions, I have even met people who consider it criminal. I am personally glad I was raised in the city, although I do feel I missed out on a few experiences. Based on my experiences, here are some insights to consider when trying to decide if your kids should be city kids.

1. It is too easy in a city to overlook a child’s exposure to various outdoor activities. This is not necessary however. In NYC horseback riding is available at two locations in Manhattan, there are public pools, and plenty of safe spaces to ride bikes. If you are raising a city kid, make sure you expose them to these opportunities. In addition, try to arrange a camping vacation at some point. I never went camping until I was an adult, and really wish I had experienced it sooner. I did however do lots of hiking as a child (mostly in the Bear Mountain area) and that helped to round out my city upbringing.

2. There’s a lot to do and explore. So often I hear people concerned that city kids will just get into trouble. Personally I feel that city kids are often better behaved because there are so many good, safe activities to keep busy with like the arts, museums, festivals, etc. While I’m sure this is the case in some non-urban settings, I know a lot of people whose high school careers seemed to revolve around keg parties. Now while my friends and I got up to much of the usual adolescent mischief, I have to say, I didn’t know what a keg looked like until college, and by then, I knew enough about what interested me that I didn’t care.

3. Growing up, I did feel very isolated from American culture as a whole. I watched the Brady Bunch and wondered why my school didn’t have homecoming queens, football teams or cheerleaders. If you’re raising a city kid, try to do things like take them to baseball games, tell them about your school experiences (if you weren’t a city kid) and remind them of the things they get to do you didn’t. And if they want to explore a more traditional culture – let them. I got very interested in pageants as a teen, because it just seemed so symbolic of the rest of the country. In retrospect I realize my parents were probably aghast, but I’m glad they let me do those things.

4. City kids don’t go through that phase of having to move far away from home to prove they can make it in the big city – it’s just what they are used to, how things are done. I think it makes the transition from college to real life much easier.

5. City kids often are more comfortable functioning in a variety of worlds because the people they are exposed to growing up come from so many backgrounds. It takes a lot to shake a city kid.

6. City kids are more independent. I’m sure that makes some parents out there shudder, but in the long run, you’ll be proud. I know I drove my parents insane because I didn’t need them to visit friends (I could just take the subway) or pursue my activities. But in time they also learned that I had an internal sense of how to take care of myself and be cautious as appropriate.

7. Just as there are a lot of bad myths about the city, there are a lot of bad myths about the suburbs – – so wherever you raise your kids, make sure you try to show them how the other half lives, and try to avoid that “we made the better choice” thing. It’s all about making the right choice for you and your family, which may be a different choice for some other family. One of the things I am trying to convey in this epinion is that I feel too many people assume raising kids in the city is just “not done.” It can be done, well, if you want to. Explore your options

8. If you raise your kids in a city, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, make sure they learn how to drive. I’m 27, and have no clue in this regard, and it’s become a huge inconvenience, but I also have not had time to learn.

9. Are city schools bad? Sometimes, but for determined parents and children, there are many good educational options, especially when you have the resources of a large city as a classroom at your disposal.

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