So what kind of rules should you start thinking about? Here are a few ideas of discussions to have with your children when they are in another parent’s care:
Rules About Sleepovers and Playdates
1. No playdates, sleepovers or outings until we meet the parents. Period.
I had this discussion with my kids recently. I’m all for them going to other people’s house, but the rule is I have to meet the parents first. I figure if I start this now, they will be prepared when I still do it in a few years (whether I embarrass them or not!).
2. Create a code.
A friend of mine told me that her daughter and her had a code phrase—I have a really bad headache—that she could use if she was uncomfortable at someone’s house. If the daughter called and used the code, mom or dad would pick her up, no questions asked. Brilliant.
3. Talk about consequences.
I’m not going to punish my kid for playing video games all day or watching a movie she “probably” knew she shouldn’t have; but there are certain family rules that must be adhered to regardless of where my kids are at the time. If they are caught doing something against the rules—even if it’s allowed at someone else’s house—there will be consequences.
4. Discuss the issues that scare the heck out of you.
I have spoken to my kids about gun safety every year since their first alone play date at age five. I recently broached the subject of alcohol and prescription medication after reading about two 10-year old boys who drank cough medicine to get drunk—at the advice of an older brother. My kids are on the younger side of the maturity scale, but I still want them to be aware just in case they are exposed.
5. Arm them with answers.
So much of kids’ stupid behavior is merely because they don’t know what to do when they get blindsided. While I would love my kids to stand up for themselves, right now I’m more concerned with ensuring they keep themselves out of sticky situations. I told my kids if they are ever in a situation where they are uncomfortable, they should blame me and fear of my wrath if they get caught. I remember how important it was to feel like you fit in, but I also remember my friends knowing that if I missed my curfew or got caught being somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, my mom would lay down the hammer. It probably got me—and my besties—out of saying yes to some really stupid things.
What rules do you have for your kids when they are outside the home?