As parents, often times we find ourselves in awkward situations with other parents. Some parents struggle with finding the line as to what rules are okay to impose in other people’s homes. When children go to other people’s homes, there are some questions that may need to be asked:
- Are there firearms in the house? How are they stored, and do your kids know how to access them? When was the last time you asked them to show you how to get into them?
- Are there any drugs in the house? Including legal ones (alcohol, marijuana and prescription narcotics)? Where are they stored and what are the rules in regard to them?
- Who will be home with them?
- What are the rules on violent video games?
- How much screen-time will the kids have? Do you have any way of monitoring or knowing what they are viewing online?
- Is anyone in the house a sex offender?
- Is there any pornography in the house that the kids might have access to?
- What are the rules on open/closed doors and what kind of supervision will they have?
These questions might sound like an interrogation. They might sound like those of a “helicopter parent.” Here’s the thing – they aren’t. These questions are about you, your parental values, and assessing the safety risks for your child. If the parent on the other end of the phone gives you an answer you are uncomfortable with you get to make some choices on how to handle it.
We live in a risky world, and there are no guarantees. Our kids will have really positive experiences sometimes, and sometimes they will have negative ones. It is our job to help them make sense of this either way. Safety is not negotiable though. There are certain risks we would like our kids to avoid if we can.
About 1/3 of homes with kids have guns, with many left unlocked or loaded. Just talking to your child about the dangers of firearms is not enough. Children are naturally curious. If a gun is accessible in someone’s home, there is a good chance a child will find it and play with it. Countless tragedies have occurred when kids found guns that parents thought were well hidden or safely stored.
Guns are part of our society. Talk to your child about gun safety – even if you do not own guns.
Making the Tough Call
At some point in your child’s life, you’ll probably come across a kid or two that after you talk with their parents, you decide you’re not comfortable with your child spending time in their home. This is a tough decision, and can also feel like an even more challenging conversation with your child. The truth is that there are some times when parents will have to tell their kids, “Hey, I have no problem with you being friends with this person, but you cannot go to their house.”
Some parents may be inclined to take it a step further. I always try to caution against banning people from your friend’s life if you can. It is far more beneficial for your child if you can collaborate with your child when it comes to challenging friendships. Children, no matter how old, do not like being told who they can and cannot be friends with… and attempting to cut a friend out could also lead to driving a wedge into your relationship with your child.
At Real Life Counseling this is exactly the type of situation we can help either prevent or repair with family counseling. We can help your family determine which awkward questions need to be asked, how to draw healthy boundaries, and how to help your child develop healthy boundaries of their own.