Accompanying your 2 year-old on a playdate is a no-brainer, but what about your preschooler or second grader? As children get older, playdate protocols become increasingly gray. If you're looking for advice for handling your child's budding social life, consider the following playdate etiquette advice from Circle of Moms members.
When to Stop Tagging Along
One of the most common playdate issues discussed in Circle of Moms communities is the appropriate age for a child to go on a playdate unattended by one of his parents. Many moms, including mother-of-three Angie B., emphasize that it's a case-by-case decision that you make based on your comfort level with the other family: “It depends upon how well you know the other child's parents and how much you trust them."
Still, if you show up to your 8 year-old's playdate expecting to hang out with the other parent, you'll likely be greeted with a surprised look. Moms like Erin W. say age five seems to be the unofficial cutoff for tagging along unannouced: “I typically assume that I will tag along on playdates and at bday parties, but now that my daughter is five (but still in preschool), I get the impression that it is less common and that mom tagging along is not the presumption.”
Getting to Know the Parents
It's natural to be nervous about sending your children on playdates solo when you don't know the parents. Circle of Moms members like Katey C. suggest getting to know the parents by first meeting on neutral ground (parks, community centers, or library story times are all good options) so your children can play and the parents can chat: “Suggest something like a picnic lunch at the park, or go for icecream or something so that the girls can play and you can spend some time getting to know the parents. Explain to them that you would just feel more comfortable getting to know them before either of your daughters spend time alone with the other parent.”
Other moms, like Barbara C., recommend easing concerns through a more direct approach: “I think setting expectations at the time the playdate is set up is great.” She also tries to talk on the phone beforehand.
Tips for Helicopter Moms
If you or the parents of your child's friend are simply not comfortable with solo playdates yet, it's best to get on the same page from the get go. The hosting parent may be happy to have both mom and child over, or she might have had a dozen household tasks planned for that hour and not have time to socialize. If you want to stay with your child, explain your feelings, ask whether you can tag along, and offer to host as an alternative.
Meanwhile, if you're the hosting parent and you weren't expecting to entertain the other parent, consider Laura S.'s advice: "Set expectations and boundaries with her right away…Your expectations are that the children may socialize but you cannot and that she can pick her son up at a certain time. You can say something to the effect that while you enjoyed visiting with her the last time, you will be unable to do so this time because of (fill in the blank)… If the mother still seems reluctant to leave her son in your care, then you might suggest that she host a playdate for the kids…This would allow the friend's mom to maintain her comfort level and a sense of control over the situation.”