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New Research Reveals Why Parents Typically Turn Down Playdates

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Playdates can be fun for both parents and children when they're with someone they've known for an extended period of time and both are comfortable with. It's great when your child gets to spend some time out of the house, socializing with another child their age where they're as comfortable as they are when they're at home. However, when it's a playdate with someone they may not know as well, playdates can be anxiety-inducing, not just for the children but for parents as well. This is part of the reason why so many parents are turning down playdate invitations.

A new poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital showed that 48% of parents have turned down the offer of a playdate for their child because they did not feel comfortable leaving their child in the other parent's care. Leaving your child with a longtime friend who has a child the same age is one thing, but once children start school or extracurricular activities they're often meeting lots of new friends and those friends may ask for playdates. This study is showing that many parents feel uneasy about leaving their children at the home of someone they really don't know.

The poll asked 881 parents of children between the ages of 4-9 years old how they respond when their children are asked for playdates at homes that they're not familiar with. While 22% of parents said they would let their child go on the playdate, 43% said they would let their child go but they would stay with them. Another 22% would simply decline the invitation outright. The parents said how their children react to strangers, their feelings about pets, whether they have allergies or existing health conditions all influence whether they would allow their child to go on the playdate.

The majority of the parents surveyed said that they would at least try to meet the parents before a playdate was allowed, and thanks to the internet 44% of those polled said they'd check out the social media pages of the other parents before sending their child over to play.

The biggest concern of parents leaving their children in a home that is unfamiliar to both parents and children is not knowing the level of supervision that will be happening. Some parents said they were concerned about whether the child would be exposed to inappropriate language or if they would be allowed to eat foods they wouldn't regularly be allowed to eat. Another big concern was if there was medication or other harmful substances in the house the child could potentially come into contact with.

The study found that many parents asked about supervision and what the children would be doing during their playdate, but fewer asked the more uncomfortable questions like if there are guns in the house or if the children will be allowed in a pool or on a trampoline.

Sarah J. Clark, the lead investigator of the study told the New York Times that it's often for parents to have concerns, but they need to decide if their concerns are founded or not. She says that parents need to ask themselves“‘How much of this is about my anxiety as opposed to the actual situation out there?’” Ms. Clark said. “A parent who tends to be on the protective side, or maybe the overprotective side, will always be able to find a reason to say no.”

While parents may feel awkward asking the tough questions before leaving their children at a new friend's home for a playdate, such as asking about the presence of guns in the home, the poll found that 73% of parents wouldn't be offended if they were asked about safety concerns, even though only 23% have ever been asked.

Leaving your child at a new friend's home can be stressful and nerve-wracking, but allowing your child to have new experiences without you around is good for them and for their social growth. That doesn't mean that you need to blindly let your child go to any playdate they're asked either.

Credit: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital

Parents should feel confident enough to ask any questions they have before agreeing to a playdate without feeling uncomfortable. It's not unreasonable to want to ensure your children will be safe and happy when they are on a playdate so parents shouldn't feel the need to turn down the invitation because they don't feel comfortable asking tough questions.

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