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Play Dates and Hanging Out with Friends

Play dates are part of the essential experience of being a child. You are traveling to a friend’s house and away from the security of your parents. For parents, they get to see their child interacting with peers. I have seen anxiety on both sides. For those children who are just learning to be away from home they will be feeling out of their element and unsure of themselves. This can happen to the most bubbly of children. Parents who are used to seeing their children active, and social with relatives, this also produces anxiety. Why are they not playing? My daughter spent most of the time around my legs while her friend played happily.

Older children are much more experienced but have their own issues to confront. In a group setting there are often issues of sharing, favoring one friend over another or conversely maybe your child might be the one left out. The teens and tweens in your family won’t call them play dates but any time you mix personalities and multiple family rules you have the potential for conflict. There are ways to deal with these issues before they happen. It is much easier to deal with them prior to the visit than in the moment, although sometimes it just can’t be helped.

These are just some of the issues that can impact whether a play date/friend visit is a “success.”

  1. Parent expectations
  2. Length of time
  3. Communication between families prior to visit
  4. Communication level between parents and older children who will be visiting friends.

Here are some questions that I have been asked by families:

  1. We had to leave our last play date because our child was physically aggressive. How do we confront this?
  2. Our play date ended with both boys just playing by themselves in different rooms after we kept prodding them to get together. They seem friendly at school, what’s going on?
  3. Our daughter’s friend has a lot of electronics at her house and we believe in limiting it. My husband tried talking to her about the differences between families but she thinks we’re awful for doing it. Now she always wants to go over there.
  4. When our son went over to his friend’s house they called a half hour later saying he did nothing but scream and cry. His older sister was never like this? Should we just keep pushing him?
"If you go looking for a friend, you're going to find they're very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere." ~ Zig Ziglar