Re: Does your community have a Teen Room?
From: Bryan Syverson (bryan.syversonfresnocohousing.org)
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2013 10:32:09 -0800 (PST)
La Querencia Fresno Cohousing has a teen room that has been reclaimed for
use as a multi-purpose room.  As parent to one of the community's teens, I
feel that our experience might be informative.  Our community opened 4
years ago.

The teen room was intended to be a hang-out spot, but it was also intended
to be mostly self-managed by the teens themselves.  However, the space was
generally a horrible mess.  We couldn't show it to prospective community
members during open house.  We had ant infestations.  It sometimes got
really awful.  We had several interventions coached by one or more of the
teens' parents to get the teens together to make plans and implement them.
Despite good intentions and a burst of organizational energy, attention
eventually faded and the room would deteriorate again.  Finally, the
community decided to change the purpose of the room.  It sits vacant now
awaiting the decision of an ad-hoc committee (led by one of the teens).
There is a proposal and we probably have funding for construction that
needs to happen before it can be re-purposed.

However, I think the room was doomed to failure from the outset.  The space
is owned by the community and the community can reasonably request that it
be maintained to the community's cleanliness standards.  The space was
maintained by teenagers with teen-age standards of cleanliness.  The
problem is the gap between those two standards.  Someone needed to manage
that gap.

The choices are (1) for adults to clean up after the teens; (2) for adults
to force the teens to clean up to the community standards.  Both of these
involve varying levels of work and stress.  None of the teen parents were
willing to step up (we're already managing this in the teen's bedroom!)
Understandably, no other adults in the community were willing to step up,
either.  However, we had no shortage of adults willing to condemn the
teens' behavior.

I think our teen room was doomed from the outset by an unreasonable
expectation:  that teens could self-police themselves and maintain a shared
space to meet adult cleanliness standards.  There are many in our community
who think that our teens are somehow particularly lazy, sloppy, and
unmotivated.  However, I think our teens are typical.

So, if you want to have a teen room that works, either (1) lower community
standards to let the teenagers really have their way or (2) muster a team
of adults who either clean it or don't mind mustering the teens to clean
it.  The experiment failed here.  There are many threads on Cohousing-L
about the effort that most communities put forth to avoid the "tragedy of
the commons" in adult-shared spaces.  Even more effort is required when the
exclusive users of a space and the owners of that space have different
standards.

-Bryan

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