There are so many milestones that we all want to see our kids achieve. These milestones are moments that we either can’t wait for or secretly dread. They are moments that are filled with joy, relief, and apprehension as our child gains their independence from us.
One of the biggest milestones is when we allow our child to play at a friend’s home for the first time without us. There is a feeling of relief that we don’t have to go, but we are also nervous that there could be a problem when we are apart from them. We cannot protect our child from all harm, but we can certainly protect them from many dangers. We do this by asking the right questions before they are allowed to go to a friend’s home. Here are the topics you should ask questions about before your child’s first playdate without you.
Ask About Drop Off and Pick Up
What time should I drop off and pick up?
The first step to setting up a playdate you will not be attending is to establish clear drop off and pick up times with the other child’s parent. This way no one is left wondering and everyone is clear on when the playdate will start and end.
Ask About Pets
Do you have pets? How is the pet trained? Will it be around the kids?
Before you allow your children to go to another home, you should find out about pets. Especially if your child has allergies or is afraid a certain type of animal.
We have dogs at our home. Our chihuahua is not the friendliest and is very sensitive. For that reason I do not allow him around other people’s children. I will happily explain to any of our family and friends why he stays upstairs in our room when friends are over.
Ask About a Pool
Do you have a pool? What safety precautions are in place? How are the kids supervised in the pool?
If you have younger children that cannot swim well or at all, this is an important question. Obviously, the older your child is the less worrisome this will be. However, it is still important to know how kids will be supervised if they are going in a pool. Accidents can easily happen.
Ask About Parental Supervision
Who will be at your home when my child is there? Will they be left alone for any period of time?
We want to believe that all parents have the common sense and beliefs that we do, but that is simply not the case. You need to know who will be around your child and if they will be left alone in the home for any period of time. As your child turns into a teenager you still will want to know how they will be supervised. You don’t want to find out the next morning that your child slept over at a home with no adults or were at an out of control party with no supervision.
Ask About Technology
What shows and stations are children allowed to watch? Do the children have access to video games, tablets, phones or the Internet? Are the children supervised on these devices?
My children are younger so we are a bit stricter about their TV/Internet usage. However, even the most innocent apps and websites can accidentally lead to some pretty disturbing Internet content. One misspelling can lead to all sorts of trouble online. If you don’t know what your children are watching, consuming or interacting with it could lead to big problems later. No matter where your children are, you need to know what they are doing online, and how they are supervised on these devices at a friend’s house.
Ask About Weapons
Are there weapons in the home that the children can access (guns, knives, etc)? How are they stored? Are they locked up? Do you keep the weapons loaded or unloaded? Are they locked up right now?
These can be uncomfortable questions to ask, but it can’t be more difficult than having your child be the victim of a deadly accident. Any responsible gun owner would be willing to share the safety measures they follow in their home. If you find you are not comfortable with the answers the other parent or guardian provides, invite their child over to play at your home instead. If the other family severs your friendship over these questions it may be upsetting but it will not be more tragic than your child getting hurt or killed at a friend’s home.
Always be sure to teach your children how dangerous firearms and weapons can be. Let your children know if they find a gun around that is unattended, that they should tell an adult immediately. If no adult is around, they should get away from the weapon as quickly and safely as possible.
For further ideas and suggestions about gun safety for your children, check out the SMART campaign. The SMART campaign was started with the intention of reducing gun deaths from unsecured firearms. SMART reminds us to
Secure Guns in Homes and In Vehicles
Model Responsible Behavior.
Ask about Unsecured Guns In Other Homes
Recognize the Risks of Teen Suicide
Tell Your Peers to Be SMART
Ask About Food and Alcohol
Will you serve any food while my child is there? Is there alcohol in the home? Will my child have access to it?
If your child has a food allergy, make sure you let the other parent know. If your kids are teens, you need to find out if there is alcohol in the home. There are always parents who will have the policy that they would rather their kid drink in the home than somewhere else. Even if it is illegal for underage children. If you live in a state where Marijuana is legal, you may also need to ask about that. If you prefer that your child spends time in a home where Marijuana is not consumed, you have to ask.
If you want to help open the dialogue about safety with other families your child spends time with, be open to sharing information about your home. Let other families know if you have any possible safety concerns like pets or pools. Be willing to tell other parents that you have firearms and that they are locked up.
It also doesn’t hurt to inquire as to whether or not the child coming to your home has any allergies you should be aware of. This is especially important if the child has life threatening allergies and might be eating in your home or playing outdoors near bees and other insects.
At first you might feel awkward discussing these topics and your child may be embarrassed by your questions. Just remember that an embarrassed child is far better than a physically or emotionally injured child. If you don’t ask, you may never know and silence can be deadly for your child. Finally, if for any reason your gut instinct tells you that your child should not play at someone else’s home. Listen to it.