Welcome back to another installment of Boundary Boss. I’ve gotten so many ideas but have had little time to write. Today, we’re talking about how we set boundaries for our kids when they visit friends. Because it’s us, as parents, having to set the boundaries.
As you know, the trio just turned 7. There’s a lot that comes with that age. Sleepovers start, slowly. Play dates at friends houses without the parent accompanying the child. Those are new, and potentially challenging, circumstances for those of us who didn’t grow up with technology but are raising kids with technology.
I remember hanging out with my girlfriends in upper elementary school. One friend in particular I remember spending our time outside at her farm listening to Kenny Rogers while laying out (it was the early ‘80s in Kansas, give me a break), or she’d come over and we’d play records and chat in my room.
Growing up, we had no phones, no computers, no video games, one t.v. with a knob in the living room that got 13 stations, plus my dad was the town preacher. I was pretty safe.
As parents, Bray and I are pretty conservative in our parenting style. Plus, we’re both pretty low-tech people. We each have an iPhone which as a rule, unless the kids steal it without our consent to make a movie, the kids aren’t allowed to use. I have a four year old iPad with parental controls where the kids can play a few minutes of educational games or the eldest can watch old college football games to get him through the off season. We have one t.v. and it’s in the main room. We don’t watch the news until the kids go to bed (who can watch it in front of kids these days), and they’ve only watched animated movies, old school non animated movies (think Swiss Family Robinson and Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and the original three Star Wars movies (that’s as adult as we’ve gone). We have no video games and the kids don’t get on our one computer.
We’d like to keep our kids kids as long as we can. That means, as parents, we have to ask hard boundary setting questions when it comes time to play at other kids houses (I wish I could host every single kid hang out, and I really hope we have the house where kids come, but I know they need to visit friends too!).
First of all, we get to know the family first. Because we’re at a relatively small school and the kids join activities, we’ve had a decent amount of luck doing that at each school. But still, there are things we don’t know. In talking with other moms, here are the questions we like to know the answers to before letting a child head to a friend’s house:
- Does your child have access to a computer/iPad? Does it have parental controls? Do they watch it unsupervised? Can you make sure they don’t watch it unsupervised while my child is visiting?
- Do you have guns? Are they locked up? (Bray is a hunter so we have no problem with guns. But ours are locked up and I want to make sure everyone else’s are too.)
- Do you plan to watch movies while my child is over? Could you let me know what it is? (The kids can watch PG movies but no violence/”dark spirits” type movies.)
- Do you have video games? What are they? (If the kids want to play video football, great. If the kids want to play a war video game, not so much.)
I think these are hard conversations to have. But the even harder conversation to have would be when your child gets exposed to adult content, even if it wasn’t intentional. If we set the boundaries about rules outside our home, then the other families will hopefully feel comfortable with their child visiting you because they know you will care equally for their kids.
What about you? Do you ask families questions before a sleepover/playdate? How have you been able to effectively set boundaries for your children as they move from the little kid stage to the big kid stage? (I know teen conversations are entirely different – but this 7 to 11 age is a critical one to protect as well!)