Gone are the days when you could let your children head out the front door with the only instruction being that they should be back in time for dinner. The world simply seems to be more of a dangerous place these days. So as they stretch their wings you need to be sure that they fly safe.
While you want them to develop good friendships with other kids, of course, you should be aware of as much as possible about those they are spending time with. Without getting paranoid about things, it’s important to know more than just the names of the parents where your children are hanging out. As parents, safe kids are a high priority.
First, there’s the children or teens themselves to consider: are they a good influence? Here are 4 Things Every Parents Must Know about their children’s friends. And then there’s those kids’ home environment and their parents.
I’m not suggesting an inquisition, but I do encourage you to be inquisitive. You can find out a lot just by observing and talking with your kids’ friends when they are with you. Or by talking with your children about their friends—what they like about them, and what they do and how they feel when they are with them.
Why not introduce yourself to the other parents and learn more about them and their values? When you speak with them, you don’t want it to come across like an interrogation, but here are some questions you’ll likely want to know the answers to. You can get many of the answers just in a casual conversation with them.
1. Do they have older kids?
If so, what are they like? What do they like to do?
2. Do they monitor media?
What sort of media is available in the home, from television and the Internet to music, and are there are controls or is there any monitoring? If you have a PG or PG-13-only viewing limit at your house, you’re going to want the hosts to know that before letting your child go over there.
3. Do they have potentially dangerous items?
For instance, are they gun owners, and if so, what sort of security is in place to ensure children don’t get hold of them. Or what about alcohol; if they drink, how do they secure the beer and liquor?
4. Do they have family issues?
Has there been a recent divorce, or are there marriage or other family problems that might be causing tension and difficulties in the home?
5. Do they have boundaries?
Are they the laid-back kind for whom anything goes? What sort of house rules are enforced—curfew, media consumption, manners? Do they plan to leave the kids on their own and go out for the evening? If they have a babysitter, what can they tell you about them?
6. Do they have guests?
Are there other people coming and going there regularly that you don’t know; for example, is the single mom maybe dating someone new, or does an older teenage brother have friends over too?
I’m not saying that a “yes” to most of these questions necessarily means that you don’t want your children to have anything to do with the other family or be over there, but being better informed about the situation and circumstances will help guide you as you decide what’s best.
Naturally, your rules are going to vary depending on the age of your children. This guide to Planning a Sleepover That Works takes into account the different kind of boundaries you may want to have in place for different stages of growth and development.
How have you teamed up with other parents to provide safe places for your children and their friends? Share your experiences here.