Your kid is invited to a sleepover at a new friend’s house or wants to go over to a friend’s house for the first time. Before you agree, you need to ask the other child’s parents some questions first. This is not a grand inquisition. It’s simply to determine if you’re comfortable with your child’s temporary caregivers, and the safety and quality of the environment they’ll be spending time in.
I’m not suggesting you email the parents a massive questionnaire with an essay section. The answers can be quickly ascertained over the course of a quick phone call or in-person chat. Keep it casual; you don’t want to come off like a sanctimonious dillhole.
I’m not going to lie: some of these questions might make you or the other parent feel supremely awkward. But it’s for the best. It’s better to know the answers and pull the plug preemptively than go through a lot more discomfort later.
Who will be watching the kids?
Don’t just assume the parent will be on hand. Maybe they’ll have a babysitter that day, a grandmother will be in charge, or an older sibling will be overseeing their hang.
Will anyone else be home?
Is an older brother having a group of friends over that day? Are an aunt and uncle visiting for the week?
Will you be hanging out or going out?
If there are plans to be somewhere other than the home, where are you going, how are you getting there, and do you need to send along anything extra (i.e., if they’re going to a community pool, don’t forget to pack a swimsuit and towel)?
Do you have any guns in the house?
This is not a conversation about Second Amendment rights or how either of you feel about gun control. It’s simply to figure out whether the parents have firearms. If so, what type? Are they secured properly? And what level of safety training do the parents possess?
Do you have a pool or hot tub?
If yes, how is its use monitored and will there be a lifeguard on duty at all times?
Can the kids privately access the internet?
Online browsing usually starts out pretty innocuously for youngsters (“Let’s watch the trailer for the “Ninjago” movie!”) but as kids get older, they might start searching questions you’d rather talk about with them yourself, watch porn or other inappropriate material, or create accounts on social media platforms or websites you forbid.
What are your screen time rules?
Basically, are you going to let them sit in front of the TV the entire visit? And what are they allowed to watch or play?
What kind of language do the parents use around children?
You can often figure this out from the conversation itself. Sure, you could ask point blank, but I’m not sure most parents would say, “Oh, yeah, I drop f-bombs around my kid all time while making sexually explicit jokes.”
If any of their answers make you feel your child will be in an unsafe or unsavory environment, you should seriously reconsider or cancel their visit. If that happens, you can always suggest having their kids come over to your house instead, or having the children meet up outside your homes. Yes, that pivot will probably be awkward, but so it goes.
Don’t worry, you can do this. Being a parent means sometimes having to ask hard questions. You’ll be glad you did.