Author Topic: How do I facilitate my child's friendship when I distrust the friend's parent?  (Read 8124 times)

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Take2

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My daughter, A, is in elementary school. A has become close friends with a little girl, B, who is delightful. We have had her over to play. The problem is that her parent, in our brief exchanges so far, has given me some huge red flags about ever leaving my child in that person's care. A loves B and wants to grow the friendship. I am willing to interact with this parent at destinations we both attend with the kids and willing to have B come over to my house. I think B is a good friend for A and vice versa, and B's family agrees. But how do I allow A to foster a relationship with B without being mean, when I am not comfortable letting A go to B's house?

Also, I am concerned that I may appear to be judging the family based on some traditional prejudice hot-points, when really my concerns are completely about the mental health and stability of the parent. But I can't very well explain my real concerns, how do I avoid looking like a jerk?

kitchcat

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These red flags, I'm assuming they are safety concerns? Or are they just general lifestyle choices that you disagree with?

If it's not safety related, I'd just bean dip. If it is safety related, you might have to address it more directly for the sake of your daughter's friend.
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delabela

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If your concerns are the parent, then maybe you can just continue to invite B to your home or events that are in public.  If A is invited to B's home, can you just say that you are over-protective and prefer she play at your home?  Not that I think you're being over-protective, but more making it about you instead of B's parent. 

sweetonsno

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Continue to invite B over to your house and to outings in public. If B's family invites A over to play, could you perhaps see if you can come along so you can keep half an eye out? If your concerns are founded and the home is not a safe environment (for whatever reason), you can decline further invitations. On the other hand, if it turns out that the home is totally safe (there's another parent/guardian around or the mental health issue isn't the problem you thought it would be), you might be okay with letting A go over there.

I also agree with kitchcat. Depending on what the issues are, it might be worth mentioning them.

Sheila Take a Bow

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I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago (my daughter's friend's mother has a substance abuse issue). I would not let my daughter go to her friend's house but I continued to socialize with the family in public places like the park.

There were some awkward moments when I would decline invitations to their house, but I prioritized my daughter's well-being over both the mother's feelings and the friendship between my daughter and her friend. It was a hard choice because we love the girl, but I had to put my daughter's well-being first.

(In the end, it worked out that my daughter and her friend spent some time apart but are now the best of friends again. But that's another story altogether.)

bonyk

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I would probably just tell the family that I am very protective and will not let my child have play dates away from me. 

weeblewobble

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Arrange play dates for public places like the library, the movies, fast food playgrounds, parks, and museums.  Host your daughter's friend at your house, but find strategic reasons why your child can't go to her friends.  I think you have to trust your instincts when it comes to trusting people with your kids.

RebeccainGA

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My mom, who is mostly raising my niece, has the same issue with the little girl across the street. Sweet girl, parents seem reasonably loving and all but make some lifestyle choices (smoking, loud but good natured arguments in front of the kids) that make mom a bit nervous. She's got it established with them that 90% of the time, the girls play either at mom's house, or somewhere else (a park, for example). The few times that niece is over across the street, it's daylight hours, for short periods of time, and mom is very careful to make sure she walks niece over to see that things are as they should be before she leaves.

It's hard when then parents don't have the same values as you in terms of health and safety issues. You can compromise some, if you feel that you are safe doing so, but trust your gut. Also, consider that you may be doing this little girl a huge favor, developmentally, by modeling more socially acceptable behavior, so she knows that her family isn't the norm - she may be able to make choices more clearly as she grows up when the societal norm and her family norm are in conflict, knowing that there IS room for variation.

Good luck!

Take2

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I can't tell the family that I am over-protective, as it would clearly be a lie and this hyper-vigilant parent would notice. B already knows that A is allowed to go to other children's house for playdates, because they have talked about it. A will continue to have playdates and discuss them with B, who is her friend and seatmate.

This family has been through real trauma and I feel sympathy for them, though I was uncomfortable being offered documentation of that trauma by a near-stranger. In response to that trauma, the parent seems to have gone overboard protective, to the point of perceiving several abduction attempts by strangers that were probably imagined and training a first grader to use weapons in self defense. I would hate to cause offense, and I think offense will easily be taken. The concern is the parent's mental stability, so I can't mention the concern to the parent. I don't think the parent would harm my child, I believe the parent would go to extreme lengths to protect any child. But I am uneasy about leaving my child in the care of someone whose perceptions of reality seem unreliable, and I am concerned with the over-sharing of traumatic stories with small children.

Sheila, how did you manage to decline reciprocal invitations without causing offense? Did you tell the mother the real reasons? Did you tell you child? Was your child old enough to be tactful and not repeat your reasons to the friend and parent?

Because I am a fairly laid-back parent and because I really want my child to be exposed to true diversity as much as possible, I never thought I would have this sort of problem. Also, this child reminds me of me as a child, and I know that outside stable adults changed the course of my life for the better, I do want to help this girl.

Hillia

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If the other family has weapons in the house, I think that's a valid point.  'We're not comfortable with Daughter being around weapons'.  It's true, it's not judging their choices, and it makes a solid point. 

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Sheila Take a Bow

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Sheila, how did you manage to decline reciprocal invitations without causing offense? Did you tell the mother the real reasons? Did you tell you child? Was your child old enough to be tactful and not repeat your reasons to the friend and parent?

I'm afraid that I did cause some offense with the other mom.  But I decided that hurt feelings were the least of that mom's problems at that point.

I didn't tell the mom my real reasons -- I basically just claimed I was really busy.  I didn't think I could have a productive conversation about why, especially since she was likely to be in deep denial of her problem.

My daughter had just turned 3 at the time, so she was too young to understand what was happening, so I just told her that she couldn't go over there but then I'd plan a play date at the park and that was enough to keep my daughter happy.

bah12

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I think that you continue to arrange for playdates where both of you and B's parents will be present.  It allows for A and B to grow their friendship and for you to get to know B's parents better.  In time, you may be comforted that they can care for A.  Maybe you won't.  But, I think that you get to know them and make the decision to leave A with them only when you're comfortable (if ever).

And I think that's just parenting 101.  Just because my DD may like another child, doesn't automatically mean that I have to be comfortable leaving her in the care of that child's parents (or them with me) if I don't know them.  Just because the red flags aren't visible right at the onset, doesn't mean that they don't exist.  So, with anyone new, get to know the parents and get some level of comfort with them.  I would also expect (and wouldnt' be offended by) a parent that I don't know to want to get to know me before leaving their child in my care. 

EllenS

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What about non-dropoff playdates?  If you and the other parent don't know each other well, if your child is invited to their house, could you suggest a time for you to go with and have coffee or something, with the parent or parents?

I live in a part of the country where gun ownership is common, and if I had concerns about a parent not keeping their weapons in a safe place, I would talk about it directly. "Listen, I know you have trained B to handle a weapon, but A has never had that training.  Can we talk about what safety measures you use at home?"

Any serious or responsible owner of a weapon for home defense would not be offended, but think better of you for asking.  I realize mental stability is a concern, but maybe if you spend some time in the home also, you might find a comfort level - or you might get rid of your qualms about forbidding your child to play there.

*inviteseller

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I seem to be the parent that everyone trusts to just do drop and run, while I play 20 questions.  There are some kids my older DD NEVER went to play dates at, but I welcomed the child into my house...the mom who screeched at her kids, the dad who only wore a pair of shorts and nothing else and just kinda set off a bad vibe, the mom who liked her prescription drugs just a bit too much, nope.  And when prescription Patty asked me why my DD never came over to her house, I just said because we had a yard and more room (house v apt) it just seemed easier to have her DD at my house.  She bought it.  Can you set up a mutual playdate for both kids and mom to sort of get a feel for her thoughts and just see where she might be at mentally ? 

mmswm

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If there are weapons in the house that provides you with a perfect excuse, and I say this as a gun-toting, card-carrying member of the NRA. You can simply say that you are uncomfortable around weapons and while you just know that they keep theirs safely locked up, it's a hang up of yours and you just can't get past it.

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