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7 Questions Worth Asking Before the Next Playdate

As a little girl I spent many school day afternoons and summer days at my friends' houses. We had slumber parties and beach trips, and so many of my greatest childhood memories take place in their backyards and living rooms. I also vividly remember the phone and face-to-face conversations that often took place before the very first visit. On my end it often included my mom (or grandmother) meeting one or both parents, exchanging info and verifying there would be adult supervision. And that was it.

No questions about guns or vaccines or what kind of food they would be serving. Not like now.

RELATED: Saying No to Sleepovers Isn't Overly Cautious

I can count on one hand how many times my oldest daughter has been over to a friend's house without me there. I feel exceptionally thankful for her preschool friends. Some of my closest friends are their parents, and we do our best to get together for them and us. So most often when she is with her friends, I am close by.

But my daughter has gone to the occasional birthday party or outing without me, and unless she's with one of my best friends, I find myself anxiously awaiting pick up time.

Several months ago I happened to catch the remaining segment of a show my mother had been watching. In it, the show's hosts touched upon questions that parents should be asking other parents. These questions stuck with me and later I Googled them in an effort to learn more.

These questions will do more than prompt us to interrogate well-meaning parents, but rather have meaningful and humble conversations.

The world is just so scary, I thought as I read over these topics. Mostly because some of these are questions that never even occurred to me to ask my own friends (and even family), let alone the parents of new friends. While some topics might come up in regular talking, a lot of things likely won't.

As parents, we tend to worry a lot about what happens outside of the home, and if you're on top of your game (or a worrier or cautious parent) you do your due diligence as best you can with regards to the people in your home and those your child frequents. So what happens when the people are really great but their life choices aren't in line with your own families?

Here's what you should ask before you send your sweet child off for an afternoon of fun with their BFF:

  • Do you have a gun in your home (if yes, how are guns stored)?
  • Is your child vaccinated?
  • Are non G-rated movies and video games permitted in your home?
  • Do you smoke (marijuana or cigarettes)?
  • Is alcohol "kept within kids' reach in the home"?
  • Who lives in the home?
  • Do you have any pets?

Knowing the answer to these questions to start might cause you to re-evaluate whether or not you're comfortable allowing your child to go to their friend's house. You may decide to look for alternatives such as meeting at the park. Other times your decision may vary based on the situation. For instance, I don't believe in having guns in the home but two of my closest friends are married to men who are in law enforcement.

For a lot of parents these are uncharted waters, particularly in a day and age when so many of us struggle with the way childhood has changed over the years. Once upon a time children ran wild and free—we ran wild and free, at least until dark. And we survived. Nevertheless, I tend to worry about my kids when I'm not with them.

My hope is that these questions will do more than prompt us to interrogate well-meaning parents, but rather have meaningful and humble conversations (void of finger pointing and stone throwing), knowing that so many of us are doing the very best we know to do. Additionally, this is a chance to engage in some important and ongoing conversations with our children. When asked if she wants to play with a dog, my 2-year-old is quick to mention that she's allergic, and my 10-year-old knows that certain foods will upset her stomach, so she tends to avoid them (and kindly decline) even if they are offered to her.

RELATED: Questions I Never Thought I'd Ask Before a Playdate

Here's a wonderful point brought up in a CNN article:

"We need to accept that it's impossible and unhealthy to try to control every aspect of our child's experience of the world. There's a balance between protecting your kid from obvious risks and sheltering him from different points of view. But only you can decide where that balance lies."

Have you ever asked the parents of your child's friend any awkward or unexpected questions prior to a playdate? And if so, how did things turn out?

Photo via Twenty20/Nate Mueller

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