Q: It seems every child on the block hangs out at our house. We have stricter rules than most parents on our street about where our grade-school children are allowed to go, so all the children end up here. I’m pleased they feel comfortable at our home, but sometimes it feels overwhelming. What should we do?
A: This issue has more to do with the grown-ups in your neighbourhood than with the children. Uncomfortable as it sounds, we’d encourage you to initiate some friendly, straightforward conversations with the other parents on your street. Explain that while you love having their children at your home, it would be helpful if everyone could agree on some ground rules. For example, it would be a good idea if the children brought along their own water rather than finishing the cold water in your fridge every time they get thirsty. You can also minimise some of the bathroom clean-up by suggesting that they make a habit of visiting the restroom at home before coming over to play.
When you’re talking with the neighbourhood parents, keep in mind that this can be a great time to learn more about them, their background, their perspective on life, and their basic values. Discuss the limits you set for your children’s behaviour and find out if they’re on the same page. If they are, and if you feel confident that there’s adequate supervision, there’s no reason why you can’t allow your children to spend some time playing at their homes. That way, you can begin to spread this responsibility around the neighbourhood a little more evenly. While you want to protect your children from dangers and negative influences, it’s also important for their growth and development to look for opportunities to lengthen the proverbial leash a bit whenever reasonable and appropriate.
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