When Your Child Returns From a Playdate, and That Nagging Feeling Won’t Leave You


You have that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach. You allowed your daughter to spend some time with a new family on a playdate, one that you’d gotten to know reasonably well, but not as well as you’d like. However, because you understand that a mama’s got to gradually let out a little more rope in a child’s life as they grow, you agreed to let her go.

Now, you’re a little unsure. You want to trust that she’ll be okay, but now that she’s there, you’re struck by MAMA FEAR.


Oh my, I’ve been there, done that, still doing it. I get it. Seven kids. I’ve had enough mama fear to make an army of zombies run for cover. I understand.

And if you’re like me, gnawing, fearful thoughts lead to a myriad of questions that bubble in your subconscious and surface the whole time your child is gone. “Is she okay? Are these people really safe? Do they really share my values? Are they watching out for her as I would? . . .”

And if you’re like me, by the time we pick our kiddo up from her playdate, we barely make it into the mini-van before our bubble damn bursts. “Were they nice to you? Did anyone hurt you? Did they show you a movie you shouldn’t watch? Who? What? Where? When? How? . . .” And our child is drowning in our soap suds of questions, feeling our fear, with no understanding of why. They can’t even respond to our questions because, well, no one can communicate with bubbles in their mouth! By the time we’ve scooped up the bubbles, by ceasing our interrogation, we have no idea what our child did at the playdate or how our child really felt about it.

Because it’s not so much what she did at the playdate that’s important. It’s how she felt about what she did at the playdate.

How she felt will give us more information about her safety than the activities she participated in. Children are feelers. And right now all she is feeling is our fear and she can’t navigate through our feelings to get to hers.

We do this as mamas. I know, because I’ve written enough fiction in my head while my children have been away from me to fill a library. Well, okay, seven libraries. I’ve also been guilty of spouting off questions rooted in my fiction and based on my fear. (True confession: I just did this the other day with one of my teens. I’m still learning.)

And when fear governs our mama questions, we lose. And so does our child.

So how does a mama develop “fearless” questions? Questions that give you the information you need to know to discern if it was a safe playdate?

The first thing I have to do is examine my fears, then, give them the boot. And the best way I’ve found to cause fear to dissipate is to put on my “mama boots”, ask a wise friend to don hers, and together wade into the fear bubbles. We pop them one at a time. And we giggle and shed tears depending on what emerges.

Admitting fear and then staring it in the face chases it away or at least tethers it to reality. And mama, I find reality is a whole lot easier to navigate than fiction. It’s easier to pop a contained bubble than a floating one.

Once my fears are attended to, I ask my child two questions, bob and weave with her answers, and listen closely:

What did you like most about the party?

What did you like least at the party?

Then, I allow her feelings to lead me to the reality of what her playdate was like. I allow that reality to lead me toward my decision regarding the next playdate. And I am free to let out the rope, year by year, popping my fear bubbles along the way.

How do you deal with your fears? What fearless questions do you ask your child to determine if a playdate was safe?

This article originally appeared at RiseandShineMovement.org.

Previous articleThe Line in the Aly Raisman Victim Statement That Mothers Can’t Miss
Next articleIt’s Hard to Parent Well When You’re Holding Down the Couch
Carolyn Ruch
Carolyn Byers Ruch is an author, speaker, child advocate, and founder of the RiseAndShineMovement.org where she equips parents to protect kids. But her role as a mother is where she’s had her most joyous successes, her most painful failures. She’s protected and won. She’s protected and lost. From nearly thirty years of parenting and over a decade of prevention training, she joins you in the trenches, fighting with you for the safety of your children and her own. Because sexual abuse is never a child’s fault. And prevention is always an adult responsibility.