Your child loves to mingle with friends but you aren't sure if a play date is such a good idea. Instead of worrying, allow him to get together with pals but first, keep these key aspects in mind.
By Renita Siqueira
It was Friday — the last day of the week and also the day when Mohan's monthly tests would get over. After the test, the class teacher decided to let the children play so Mohan moved to where his friend Rahul was sitting. With Saturday and Sunday being holidays, the two friends began discussing what they would do during the weekend.
Suddenly Rahul said: "Mohan, why don't you come to my home tomorrow for a sleepover? You can go back on Sunday after breakfast."
"But, will your parents allow that?" asked Mohan.
"Of course, they will."
What a marvellous idea! The boys were thrilled at the thought of a sleepover. "But, I will need to ask my parents about it," said Mohan excitedly.
When school was over, Mohan and Rahul rushed towards the gate. Mohan's father was waiting to pick him up.
Mohan went to his father and smiled winsomely. "Papa, can I stay at Rahul's home on Saturday? I promise, I will come back early on Sunday to finish the rest of my homework."
Mohan's father looked at the beaming faces of both the children and took a deep breath. After deliberating for a few seconds, he said, "I don't think it is a good idea, Mohan. There are lot of things for you to do at home. Now, let's go."
The children couldn't understand why Mohan's father was against sending him for a play date and sleepover. They felt crushed and disappointed.
The benefits children derive from being around friends is well known. With increasing academic pressure and shrinking playing spaces, most parents today organise play dates or sleepovers during weekends. Along with giving children the opportunity to get together, having these events at home also provides a safe environment to play in. However, not all parents think that this is a good idea and worry about the safety of their child, in another home. Hence, some of them refuse to allow their child to visit a friend. Sometimes, they feel that their child will not be taken care of well or supervised adequately.
Like Mohan's father, are you also hesitant about sending your child for a sleepover to a friend's place? If yes, then here are eight key questions that you should ask the 'host' parents. Keeping these aspects in mind will help you understand more about the environment your child will be in and also, the care/supervision provided.
1. Who will supervise and look after the children? This will give you a clear idea of who will be there to look after the children — will it be an older sibling or grandparents or one of the parents or the domestic help? It will also help you prepare your child on how to seek help or, ask for what she needs from the caregiver.
2. Will the children be left alone at home at any time? There are always chores to do around the house. Sometimes, the caregiver may need to step out to visit the nearby grocery store or, to run an errand. With children being an enthusiastic bunch and the added excitement of being in the company of friends, it is possible that they may get up to mischief if left unsupervised. So, do ask this question to find out how well-monitored your child and his friend will be.
3. What activities will the children engage in? Playing in the backyard, listening to stories from a grandparent, solving puzzles or watching movies — it’s important to know what your child and her friend will be doing while they are together. If you or your child is uncomfortable with any planned activity, do make that known and suggest an alternative.
4. What are the rules about television-watching or using the Internet? While some parents are strict about monitoring their child's Internet and TV use, some aren't so concerned. But, most parents agree that children shouldn't be exposed to any inappropriate content. So, ask this question to clarify if your child and her friend will be using gadgets unsupervised. You can also go ahead and tell the 'host' parent your preferences — that you do not want her allowed to use the Internet or watch particular TV shows.
5. Are there pets at home? Almost every child would love to have a pet but not all of them know how to take care of one. Or, more important, be around one. Also, some children are allergic to pet dander. So, it is important that you seek information about pets at the friend's home. If your child doesn't handle pets well or has no experience of being around pets or, is allergic to any particular animal, alert the parents of your child's friend.
6. Are there weapons at home? While guns are not usually found in most Indian homes, the fascination for owning a firearm is fast increasing. Also, some individuals may keep sharp-edged weapons like knives or a machete at home for protection. If there are weapons at home, you can request that these be kept under lock and key. For, although children have no idea of how dangerous weapons are, they could be tempted to handle them.
7. Are there any other safety concerns?: Other than weapons, there are things that can also prove to be a safety hazard — for example, gardening tools, a trampoline and even, portable swimming pools. Children are unaware of the risks posed by these objects and could well land themselves in trouble while attempting to use them unsupervised. So, do check if there are potentially dangerous objects in the home and whether the children will be allowed near them.
8. Are there any plans of going out? Sometimes, children may get bored and request to be taken out. It could also be that the 'host' family may suddenly decide to take the children out. So, enquire if any trips are planned or if there is a possibility of going out with children. If yes, then do ask what the likely places are and how the children will be handled in crowded areas, like malls.
An important point to remember while you confer with the other parent is to try to adopt a conversational tone instead of an interrogative one. And, don't feel embarrassed about clarifying other concerns you may have. Also, before you allow your child to go over to her friends's house, try to teach her how to handle herself when you are not around.
Vritti Gulati is a part of Safecity’s #WritersMovement.
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