My 7-year-old asking me if she could go to a friend’s house to play was such a dilemma for me as a parent. I very much wanted to say YES as I believe in letting kids be kids and that includes giving them the time and opportunity to play along with other kids.
A part of me was, however, saying NO. I only met the friend whose house she wanted to go to in passing and I haven’t met the child’s parents or have I seen the home she was going to. Questions like are they OK with other children being in their home? Do they uphold the same standards as I do? come into mind with the ultimate one being WILL My CHILD BE SAFE THERE?
My trust issues may seem too paranoid for you but with all that’s happening around us – kids being kidnapped, molested or harmed by people who’re unlikely to do such things – I think they’re legit.
So, what can parents like me do to meet the parents of their kids’ friends, get to know them, their families and ultimately, find out if their homes are OK to go to for a play-date?
Organize/Host a Get-Together
It doesn’t need to be formal just as long as you get the opportunity of meeting other parents and talking to them while your kids play.
One mother hosted an informal tea party inviting all the girls of her daughter’s class along with their mothers just as the school year started. Not only did her little girl gain new friends, the mother did, too.
Get Involved/Volunteer in the School Organization or Program Your Child is Interested In
Help out in the classroom or volunteer in the soccer team if your child plays there. This way, you meet the kids your child plays with as well as their parents.
Adopt the Direct Approach
Nothing beats the direct approach, though. If your child makes new friends, find time to get to know these friends, visit them in their homes and talk with their parents. No parties or get-togethers to host with hidden agendas and who knows, you’ll be able to develop relationships with the parents of your children’s friends as well.
You are NOT ALONE!
Most, if not every, parent is like you and me. We always want what’s best and safe for our kids and we know we’ll feel more relaxed if these things are met in and outside our homes.
As our children grow up, spending time with other people who might be strangers to us is inevitable. But we couldn’t leash our kids as doing so would incite them to rebel. Rebellious kids are the ones most likely to end up in the wrong crowd.
We don’t have to keep our kids from making friends, some of who are strangers to us. We just have to make sure these two vital priorities are met before we release them into this world’s social jungle.
First, make sure your kids know the family’s stand and expectations when it comes to important family issues.
What is your stand on . . .
- The use of social media or the internet?
- On drinking alcoholic drinks, tobacco and even drug use?
How to differentiate proper and improper behaviors from the people around them as well as proper and improper activities?
You should also make it clear what places in the house where they go to are OK to play in.
Make sure that you clearly communicate your stand on these matters to your kids and that you also “practice what you preach” to them. Growing children learn best through personal examples.
If you feel like you can talk to your kids’ friends about these matters then, do so. Many of us, parents, feel uncomfortable bringing these things up with other parents but know that these are general concerns.
Secondly, make it clear to your kids that whenever they feel uncomfortable in their friend’s house in the course of their visit, they must ABSOLUTELY call you.
Teach them to be clear in communicating with the people in the house they go to. Example, if they feel unease, they must say, “I want to call my parents, please”. You can also let them bring a mobile phone with them with your number in it whenever they’re away from you to make communication with you easier.