As your child makes friends, they’ll begin to get invited to other people’s homes. You likely have fond memories of visiting friends as a kid and want your own child to have a similar experience.
However, the thought of leaving them at a new friend’s house can be nerve-wracking. To ensure your kid is safe while visiting friends, consider the following tips.
1. Give Them a Way to Communicate
Many parents are hesitant to let their children use technology. However, giving your child a cell phone for kids is a simple way to make you both feel comfortable when they’re somewhere new.
Unlike iPhones or Android devices, many kids’ phones limit access to the internet, apps, or games. This prevents children from accidentally coming across explicit content or online predators.
Safe phones for kids give you and your child the ability to communicate when you’re not together. So if something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable, they can discreetly send you a text message. Make sure your child knows the numbers of additional emergency contacts in case you can’t be reached.
2. Meet the Parents
Before letting your child hang out at a friend’s house, it’s important to meet their parents. While you don’t need to become best buds with Timmy’s mom, you want to ensure your values align. For example, if you discover Timmy’s parents are racist, you probably don’t want your child to spend time around that family.
Beyond values, you need to know whether the friend’s parents are safe for your child to be around. Most people won’t tell you their life’s darker stories. But a quick background check will illuminate any concerning details. Something like a traffic violation is not likely cause for concern. However, arrests for drug possession, violence, or sexual assault are huge red flags.
3. Know Where They’re Going
Along with meeting the parents, you’ll also want to know your child is in a safe environment. While you don’t need a full house tour, do some research on the neighborhood they’ll be in. If you discover their friend lives in an area with high gun crime rates, suggest a playdate at your house instead.
Additionally, you need to know whether your child will be leaving the friend’s house and where they’ll be going. This will assure you your child is engaging in safe activities and make them easier to locate in case of emergency. Outings to places like the bowling alley or movie theater are typically safe. However, you may not want your child visiting another person’s house whom you’ve not met.
4. Ask About Weapons
Each parent will have varying levels of comfort allowing their children to visit homes with weapons. Many feel OK with it as long as the weapon is properly locked away. Still, it’s important to ask what weapons someone owns and how they are stored. Safely stored guns should be unloaded and locked in a gun safe separate from the ammunition.
Whether your child has exposure to guns or not, it’s essential to talk with them about gun safety. It’s estimated that one-third of Americans own a gun, so it’s likely your child will eventually be in a home with weapons. To avoid tragic accidents, have regular conversations with them about how guns work and how to stay safe. Even if your child has grown up around guns, they should never be alone with a weapon.
5. Ask About Supervision
Elementary-aged children need to be supervised, full stop. But as kids get older, parents have different ideas about when it’s all right to leave them on their own. One parent may think it’s fine to leave middle schoolers alone for an hour, while another may not. Understanding the other parent’s feelings about supervision can help you determine whether you’re comfortable letting your child visit.
If you’re fine with unsupervised play, a few safety measures should still be in place. First, set clear rules around answering the door and turning on the stove. Let kids know they shouldn’t open the door for anyone and send a snack along to avoid any kitchen mishaps. In addition, program emergency numbers into your child’s phone in case there’s an accident.
6. Know What Activities Are Planned
You’ve met the parents, you’ve checked out the neighborhood, and you feel safe letting your kid visit. Now it’s time to make sure your child has everything they need to play safely. However, you don’t want to send your kid to someone’s house with a suitcase full of stuff. So ask the parents what activities they have planned.
If your child will be playing outside on bikes, you’ll want to pack their helmet. If their friend has a pool and your kid isn’t a strong swimmer, make sure to pack floaties or a life jacket. Taking this extra step will give you peace of mind that your child has everything they need to have fun and be safe.
Letting kids visit a friend’s house may make you nervous. However, it’s an important childhood experience that builds friendships and creates independence. By following the tips above, you can make sure your child is safe, even if you’re not around to watch them play.