Dear Ms. Doyle, My granddaughter has just started going to elementary school and several of her schoolmates have invited her to join them at their homes after school. Her mom and I are not sure that she should go to homes that we haven't been to or where we don't know the parents well. Are we being super cautious? What do you suggest?
First, I commend you and your daughter for having your child as your primary concern. Of course, you say? Well, too many parents think of a play date as free babysitting and use the extra time to stay at the office or, worse yet, for personal pursuits. So I applaud you for keeping your granddaughter’s social development concerns ahead of your own desires.
It’s generally a good idea to vet the parents with whom she will spend an afternoon and there are lots of strategies to do this. Do the kids play on the playground after school while parents and grandparents stand around chatting and admiring their dear ones? This would be an excellent opportunity to get to know other parents, casually raising questions without being too obvious, of course. This is definitely a trust-your-gut situation. It doesn’t take much to identify someone who might be dangerous.
If school pick-up isn’t an option, I’d call the mom (I assume mom, don’t want to be sexist here) and just say you want to “touch base” with her. Should you pack anything special for Susie to bring? A favorite toy to share? Boots for playing outdoors? What would be a convenient time to pick up? (AND BE SURE TO BE ON TIME!). If the host mom is like-minded, she will appreciate that you called and feel reassured that YOU are a responsible grandma/mom. After all, she doesn’t want a hellion for the afternoon.
Aside from torture and abuse, what are your concerns? Too much screen time? Too much sugar? I look on these as learning opportunities. “Some people allow their children to watch _________________ but we don’t do this in our home” is a great message for a kid — a good first lesson in showing your child how to make distinctions. She’ll probably want to go back to the sugary household often and you can limit those visits, though I wouldn’t cut them out altogether.
If you are uncertain about a particular household, you can pick up your child earlier than the agreed upon time to see if the conditions are OK.
I’ve outlined some strategies for you here and I hope you’ll write again if you have more concerns in the future. It is important not to be so cautious as to instill fear in your granddaughter. Gradually allowing her to safely experience some ways that other people do things — even if you don't approve — is good for her development.
Do you have a question for Ms. Doyle? She would be happy to respond to questions on love and relationships, and anything else that leaves you in a quandary. Please email: Ms.Doyle.DailyUV@gmail.com
You can sign up to get an alert by email every time I publish if you like! Ms. D.