It can be tricky for parents to want to give their child the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their friends and not want to nudge into their personal lives versus feeling the urge to be overprotective and want to find out every nugget of detail in order to make sure that the friends or their parents are not completely sketchy or something along those lines.
For parents that are hesitant about letting their children attend sleepovers or have play dates with their friends but feel bad about limiting their little one’s freedom, Very Well Family advises sticking to a certain set of questions in order to get to know their friends—and their friends’ parents—better.
One way to do that is to get a hold of the parents’ contact information before the scheduled get-together and give them a call as a way to find out if there’s any specific etiquette in place at their house, the names of the emergency contacts and the general outline of the play date; such as if they plan on taking the children to the park or to see a movie.
For parents that need more tips, the following will help generate a list of questions to ask the friend’s parents and what questions to stay away from.
Let's start with the 15 things parents should know about their kids' friends...
20 Where They Live
Before a play date or a sleepover between a child and their friend occurs, Healthy Children writes that it is very important that parents find out where the friend lives.
Not only will they potentially have to look up directions on how to drive there in a car or how to get to their living quarters via public transportation, but it is also a good idea to save the address to the contacts section of a smartphone just in case the child winds up getting a stomach bug or becomes homesick at any point during the event and mom or dad needs to get there ASAP.
19 If The Parents Will Be Supervising Them During Playdates
Very Well Family urges parents to check in with their child’s friends parents to make sure that there will be adult supervision at all times before agreeing to a play date or even a sleepover between the two friends.
Children, especially younger tweens, can be mischievous things, and sometimes they require constant attention. For example, it is a time-honored tradition for children to sneak down into the kitchen during sleepovers and scarf down junk food while everyone else is asleep or not paying attention. Of course, this usually causes an upset stomach, which is one reason for a parent to want to know there’s going to be an adult that keeps a sharp eye on the kids.
18 If They Need A Lift Home After Hanging Out
It became second nature for me to ask my friends when we were brainstorming yet another round of sleepovers at my house if they needed my parents to give them a lift home or if there was a certain time that their parents were planning on picking them up because my mom and dad always asked me that question each and every time I asked permission.
Very Well Family notes that parents should always ask their child to double-check that their friend’s parents have arranged to pick their child up after a get-together or if they want you to give them a ride back home.
17 Their Itinerary During The Playdate
My aunt likes to regale us with a funny story about how my middle cousin and her friends always tried to sneak out and fib about where they were going to their parents when they were rebellious teenagers. My aunt quickly caught on when she tried to check up on my cousin and her friend’s mom thought she was at their house—which landed everyone into trouble.
Since kids will be kids, Very Well Family writes that you should always get both a written and verbal itinerary from your child—and their friend’s parents—about where they will be going during the play date or sleepover.
16 Contact Information On Hand For The Friend's Parents
Healthy Children highly recommends that parents make sure that they get the contact information for both of your child’s friend's parents as well as multiple sets of contact information for their emergency contacts, too.
Whenever I had play dates with my childhood best friend, her mom and dad not only had my parents’ home phone number as well as their individual work phone numbers, but she also had both the work and home numbers for my grandmother that lived right down the block and both of my aunts that lived a neighborhood away, just because it was better to be safe than sorry.
15 Seeing What Their Child's Friends Hobbies Are
Healthy Children writes that one way to get to know your child’s friends is to engage them with friendly conversation and ask them what their interests are, if they are active with any extracurriculars, and how they befriended your little one. It’s good to know how they met and what they do together, but don’t act too curt or intrusive, lest you embarrass your child and make their friends feel uncomfortable.
Whenever I brought a new friend home to hang out, my parents would always chat with them a bit in the living room in between commercials when we were watching television and offer to bring us snacks. It was a great way to get to know my friends and keep things low-key.
14 Inquiring About The Rules For Television At The Friend's Place
Very Well Family says that parents need to ask their child if they know what the limitations are for television and movies at their friend’s house. If they are not sure of what, if any, limits there are at home for their friend, then you should reach out to the friend’s parents before the get-together in order to find out.
Some parents are very fussy with the media that their children watch and do not want them to see a flick with anything higher than a PG rating. Other parents are far more lax when it comes to movie ratings, so it’s good to see what the media rules are at the friend’s house so you can work something out if need be.
13 Asking If Their Friend Is Allowed To Have Unsupervised Internet Access At Home
I’ll be completely honest—the Internet was only beginning to become popular and my childhood best friend had unfettered access. We spent plenty of time pranking people on instant messenger and reading poorly written (although not quite age-appropriate) fan fiction on popular websites about either Leonardo DiCaprio or Taylor Hanson.
Very Well Family adds that for parents that have regulations and limits for their child’s Internet access at home, it’s best to inquire with the friend’s mom or dad ahead of time and learn what, if any limitations that they have for letting their child surf the Internet or post on social media websites.
12 What The Parents Do For A Living
iMom notes that one way to get to know your child’s friends better is to ask your little one if they know what their friends’ parents do to earn a living and use their answers as a way to get to know them better.
For example, my dad really bonded with my childhood best friend’s father because even though my dad worked for a telephone company, he also worked as an actor on the side and my friend’s father ran a restaurant. Both acting and cooking require a great deal of precision and creativity, so they used to chat about their respective jobs whenever they came to collect us after a play date.
11 The Kind Of Pets They Have At Home
As a dog trainer, I can’t agree more with Very Well Family urging parents to see if their child’s friends own any pets and if so, if they are socialized with strangers. Not only is this good to know if you, your child or another member of the family has allergies, but especially with dogs, a pet that has stranger danger can lead to a big ole’ headache.
For example, my older dog Esme gets very agitated whenever she meets someone new and requires slow introductions. She actually ripped a hole in my boyfriend’s jacket the first time he met her, although she loves him now and doesn’t try to chew up his wardrobe anymore. If your child’s friend’s pet is as touchy as my Esme, it’s good to know that in advance so you can ask the parents to either board them or keep them separated from your child during the get-together.
10 Accommodations For Food Allergies
Food allergies are definitely no fun; I remember when I was in elementary school and our entire lunchroom had to be revamped because one of the younger students found out that he developed a really bad peanut allergy. The poor little dude couldn’t even breathe near peanut butter lest his allergies start acting up immediately and he needed to have an Epi-Pen within easy reach at all times.
If your child's friend has food allergies and your child is hosting a playdate at your place, Very Well Family recommends reaching out to reassure the friend’s parents that there will be an adult around at all times to supervise the children eating a meal or snack just in case someone has a reaction and asking them for tips on how to accommodate their allergies.
9 The Rules Of The Friend's House
Every family has a different idea about house etiquette, so Healthy Children writes that it is a good idea to make sure that you and your child figure out which ones are in effect at their friend’s place before they get together.
For example, my parents were pretty lax about dinnertime and didn’t mind if my sister and I ate dinner in front of the television set. When I went to my childhood best friend’s house for a play date and I stayed for dinner, her parents were quite strict and did not allow anyone to eat dinner in front of the table—they all had to eat together as a family at the kitchen table.
8 How The Two Of Them Became Friends
Healthy Children writes that the best way to get to know your child’s friends is to strike up a conversation when they come over to visit your little one and gently inquire as to how the two of them became friends.
Even though I’m a grown adult, my mother will always ask any of my friends that she winds up meeting how the two of us met and how the bonds of friendship formed. It’s just ingrained in her brain after years of parenting not one, but two children. Of course, she’ll also attempt to get to know my pals by asking if they have any pets and what’s going on in their lives at the moment.
7 What Their Other Friends Are Like
If a parent has any lingering doubts about their children’s friends, iMoms points out that one way to get a better read on them is by figuring out who their other friends are. As much as we sometimes don’t like to admit it, it can be very easy to analyze someone based on who they hang out with.
For example, when I was growing up, almost all my friends were bookworms that would spend hours inside of the local bookstore. All you had to do was observe my group of friends swooning over the written word and you’d be able to deduce that it was highly likely that I too, loved books.
6 Their Favorite Foods
Healthy Children writes that it is very important for parents to find out what their child’s friends favorite foods are, especially if they are planning to have them come over for dinner or if they’re trying to plan a birthday party extravaganza.
Even as a child, I never liked fish and mainly stuck to poultry and beef when it came to dinner, whereas my best friend at the time was a bit more adventurous. Her mother loved to cook and I often stayed for dinner, so she made sure to find out what I liked to eat and what I didn’t so that she didn’t accidentally make a dish I wouldn’t touch.
And here are the 5 things a parent doesn't need to know about their kid's friends...
5 If The Friend Is A Good Student
iMom notes that it can be tempting for parents that hold a lot of stock in their child getting good grades in school and excelling in all their classes so that they can hopefully get into a good college to see if they can find out if their kid’s friends are also good students, but that’s not a question you should ask.
First of all, it is none of your business. Second of all, there’s different types of intelligence and just because someone isn’t a good student in math or science doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart. Keep your questions about your child’s friends’ academics to yourself and just worry about your own kiddo’s attempts in school.
4 The Parents' Marital Status
iMom writes that it is one thing to inquire about what your child’s friends’ parents do for a living and try to find out what their personalities are like in order to get to know them better, but you should never, ever ask about their marital status because it is rude as can be.
Unfortunately, there is still a bit of a stigma against solo parents in our society, but your child’s friends’ marital status is really no concern of yours, and it will not affect how good of a friend he or she will be towards your little one.
3 Any Current Family Issues?
iMom adds that parents shouldn’t try to find out if there are any current family issues going on in the family of their child’s friends (like if they have a mother that is constantly complaining in front of everyone because the father works long hours and comes home late) because it doesn’t really have that much of an impact on their friendship and you really don’t want to get sucked into that kind of drama.
Let’s face it, everyone at some point in time is curious and enjoys a bit of gossip here and there, but resist the temptation to find out more info on what’s going on. Just remember: it’s not your circus, and they are definitely not your monkeys!
2 What Clique They Are In
There are some folks out there (parents included) that feel irritated if their child is in one clique at school and starts branching out and makes friends with children in another clique because they erroneously believe that they are lowering their standards.
iMom warns parents to not be that snooty and to resist the temptation to ask your child if their friends are part of their clique or if they run with a different clique at school. Growing up is a rollercoaster ride all on its own, and children don’t need to hear any parental disapproval about their friends based on which clique they are in at school.
1 How Much Money The Parents Make
iMom writes that it is pretty rude to inquire about what your child’s friends’ parents make a year because a) money is not the end all, be all and because b) it is none of your business.
You’d probably feel irritated if some random stranger went up to you and started asking invasive questions about your salary, so don’t make your child’s friends’ parents feel uncomfortable by asking about such an uncouth subject. You don’t know their financial state, and you wouldn’t want to accidentally make them feel down about their current salary with such lines of questioning.