This is the big one! Playdates are often the cause of lots of concern for parents of conundrum kids. Will they get on with their playdate? Will they feel anxious? Will they act out or behave problematically? It’s important that our children have friends, of course, so it’s natural we worry about playdates particularly.
If your child has never been on a playdate without you, prepare them fully. It is so important that the first playdate without you goes well, as it will give them the confidence for future playdates.
This is what I would suggest you do:
- Tell the other parent(s) about your child
Tell them everything they may need to know that will help your child feel happy, less anxious, and safe. Many parents have said to me that other mums and dads must think they are completely neurotic when they tell them about their kids, and I say, ‘So what? You are a responsible parent letting them know what may or may not happen.’
I have honestly had so many kids come for playdates who don’t know how to wipe their bottoms, or only eat crunchy beige food, or are vegetarian. I have no problems whatsoever wiping bottoms or not serving fish fingers; I just want to know. My one caveat would be not to share these details about your child with parents in front of your or their child – especially if it is something like not being able to wipe their bottom.
- Clarify who your child will be travelling home with
If it’s a straight after school playdate, make sure that you have told the teacher and the school office who your child is going home with and remind your child who they are going home with, too.
If at all possible, find the parent in question the morning of the playdate and say, ‘Look, it’s Todd’s mum. Remember you’re going home with them today for a play.’ If your child finds separating from you tricky, then it’s only fair that you pick them up with the other parent and drop them at their friend’s house.
- Prepare your child
If their friend has siblings or pets, tell your child about them in advance. And if their friend practises a different religion to yours, or has two mums or two dads, make sure your child knows about this, too, especially if this is a new experience for them.
- Be on time
When you’re picking your child up from their friend’s house after the playdate, arrive when you say you will – not just for your child’s sake, but also for the other parent who is most likely keen to get on with their evening routine. Plan for the pick-up to take longer than you expect and read your child’s cues. If they look tired or worried or grumpy, now is not the time to insist on them being independent. You want to avoid any potential outbursts.
Finally, don’t reciprocate by inviting the friend for a playdate at your house until you’ve had a debrief with your child. They may not have got along with their friend and potentially don’t want this friend at their house.