As much as we try, chances are your kids will not always be friends with parents who have the same philosophies as yours. The way I see it, I have three choices: 1) lock my kids away in my house and never let them go anywhere (most appealing, but obviously not the most realistic); 2) throw caution to the wind and hope for the best (never going to happen); or 3) ensure other parents are aware of my expectations when my kids are in their possession (by far the least appealing, but obviously the one I have to choose).
Recently a friend told me about a sleepover her 11-year-old daughter went to last year. Her impression of the family was great, but because both parents work outside the home and have two other children, she did not yet have an opportunity to get to know them well. She was extremely surprised (and relieved) when the mom sent a quick email letting the parents know what movie she was going to play, that there were no guns in her home, and that her teenage son would be sleeping at a friend’s house (something my friend hadn’t even thought of yet!). Now that’s a parent I can get on board with!
I really believe that most parents have my kids’ best interests at heart, and I’m not so naive to think that one exposure to a violent video game or risqué movie is going to scar them for life, but getting a vibe for who your children are spending time with outside of the home is important.
But sometimes parents view questions about their parenting style or private life as intrusive and a nuisance. And that’s when you have to make the tough decisions—do you stay on your island, your principles, your instincts—or do you roll the dice?
I know that as my kids get older and more independent, it’s just going to get harder, so I’m trying to put some rules together now so there’s no lip-service later. Studies have shown that having consistent and clear family rules early on can minimize the risks they’ll take when they’re teens—a time when your opportunities for meeting their friends and their friends’ parents are greatly reduced.