Parenting Tips, Info, & Advice
Questions to Ask *Before* a Playdate
As we have learned to live through and with Covid as a seemingly permanent part of our lives, playdates and gatherings are back in full force among kids and teens.
But many of us are a *bit* out of practice.
I've previously written about what to ask your child after a playdate, but there are also some critical questions every savvy and safe parent should ask before a playdate. Here is what I advise:
What’s the plan?
This may seem fairly obvious, but it’s a good idea to start here to get a lay of the land—what will the kids be doing, will there be other children there, will parents be around, will they be eating, do you need to send anything specific along, etc. All good things to know.
Who will be home and who will be in charge?
Which family members will be home? Will a parent be there, or are they leaving their 15-year-old son or daughter in charge? Is Uncle Bob visiting from Kansas? Is Grandma visiting from Florida? Will Only once you know who will be home and who is responsible for the kids will you be able to make a safety assessment.
What movies/game will they be watching?
Different families have different rules about internet usage, access to devices, and what movies or games their children are or are not permitted to play. If you are a family who cares about this, make sur you ask! You don’t want to assume they’re watching Mary Poppins only to find out that Nightmare on Elm Street was on the agenda that night. If you have any questions about the show or movie they’re planning on, Commonsense Media is a great resource to check.
Who will be driving?
If the plan is for the kids to go somewhere, it’s important to know who will be driving. Did the driver jut get their license last week? Do they know how to properly strap your child into the car seat (if applicable)? Do they have the right type of car seat? Are they someone you know to have a problem with sobriety? All things that would impact your decision-making, I’d wager. But if you don’t ask, you won’t be able to make an informed decision.
Do you have any firearms in your home and how are they stored?
This one often makes people nervous, because even asking the question can feel like a condemnation of someone’s beliefs about 2nd Amendment. However, with gun violence being the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., I’d rather be safe and risk offending someone, than be sorry. Firearms that are not properly stored (which is to say in a locked gun cabinet to which children do not have the code/key, and with ammunition stored separately in a locked container) absolutely pose a risk in the hands of a child. But this doesn’t have to be a scary conversation. I like to ask over text, and suggest following a script along these lines: “I hope you don’t take offense at this, but I was reminded by a recent talk I attended/article I read that I need to ask whether you have any firearms in your home and if so, how they are stored. Just so you know when your kiddo comes to our home, the situation for us is_________________.”
I’ve asked this countless times, and the overwhelming majority of times the parent on the other end of the text willingly shares their situation and says “I’m so glad you asked—it’s a good reminder that I need to, as well.” And really, if they are offended or refuse to answer, wouldn’t that impact your willingness to let your child play there?
Do you have any marijuana edibles in your home and how are they stored?
This question is one that I’ve added on in recent years because of the increasing number of states (21 at the time of this writing) where THC products (marijuana) are legal. A large number of folks who use marijuana are doing so with edibles, which typically look like baked goods, chocolate, or colorful candy. Some, even mimic familiar brand like Skittles or Starburst. And kids and teens don’t always understand what they are or are tempted by them if they do. But this is not without its risks—marijuana is not the harmless drug, particularly for children and teens, that it is often held out to be, and an increasing number of children are being exposed, as well as experiencing toxicity and hospitalization.
So, much like you ask about guns, this would be an important inquiry to add to the list.
In the end, we obviously can’t protect our children entirely whether they are in our own homes or somewhere else. But we can keep them safer with simple, commonsense questions that help us make informed decisions.
What questions do you like to ask before kids hang out? Are you prepared to be uncomfortable so your kids can be safe?
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Christy Keating is a certified parent coach, positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.
The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.