Why you should get to know their friend’s parents

How do parents find out what they need to know about other people’s homes and families in order to know whether they should send their children there for a play-date?

One mother decided to host a morning-tea early in the school year, and invited all of the mothers of the girls in her class. Her daughter would be playing with their daughters, and this mother took the initiative to get to know all of them.

A father took on the role of cricket coach for his son’s school cricket team. His involvement meant that he knew many of the parents of the boys his son played with.

Another mother organised a high-tea for her daughter’s friends and their mums. They put on their fancy clothes and shoes, met in the botanic gardens, ate fancy food, and got to know one another.

Many parents get involved with the school P&C, or participate in helping out in the classroom.

And some parents prefer the direct approach, visiting their child’s friend’s home, engaging with the other parents, asking questions, and getting to know them.

What matters most?

Your child is going to spend time with people who are strangers to you. As a parent you will want to be sure that their standards are aligned with yours, and that your children will not be exposed to anything you think could be harmful to them. Parents will feel much more relaxed about their child visiting someone else’s home if two central priorities are met.

First, be sure to communicate your standards and expectations to your own children and to the parents who will be watching them. Know where you stand on issues such as:

Many parents feel uncomfortable broaching such subjects with other parents. Yet typically, most parents feel relieved when they are told, “I understand. I feel the same way.” Setting up expectations ahead of time can assure peace of mind, and make the experience more positive for everyone.

Second, make sure that your children know – absolutely – that they must contact you if there are any concerns while they visit their friend. Teach them how to be clear in communication. For example, if they are uncomfortable they should clearly state “I would like to call my parents please.” You may even choose to give them a mobile phone to use while they are away from you.

In the majority of circumstances, your child’s friend’s parents will feel the same way you do about your child. They will want play-dates to be a positive experience, and will want to foster positive relationships between your children and theirs. Involvement and communication can facilitate great relationships.

This article was written for Kidspot by Justin Coulson, Ph. D. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at happyfamilies.com.au.