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A Parent’s Role in Children’s Playdates and Friendships

A Parent’s Role in Children’s Playdates and Friendships

“Mom, can I have a playdate with ‘Susie’ soon? I never get to have playdates!” I hear these words often from my daughter, Olivia (age 8), and each time it reminds me that I’ve completely failed her in the playdate area. As a working parent, I find it difficult to carve out time in our already packed schedule to coordinate kids’ playdates – especially with school friends who I barely know and whose parents I’ve never met. From the time she was in preschool, I’ve struggled with my parenting role as playdate coordinator and friendship nurturer. When’s the best time for a playdate? Will it be a “kids only” event or do you invite the parents too? Who hosted last? Does it include lunch? Are there allergies to consider? What will the kids do? Do I need to coordinate an activity? How do I get a parents contact info? It can be overwhelming.

Frankly, I feel as if the whole thing has gotten complicated. Growing up, I pretty much had to coordinate my own playtime or deal with the consequences of being bored at home. I remember those awkward knocks on my friends’ front doors and shyly asking, “Can Noreen come out to play?” It was hard as a shy kid but it helped build social skills that I needed back then. I know the world is different today and we live in a community that is more spread out than the one where I grew up. But I have been concerned that I’m preventing my daughter from developing some inherent social skills because I’ve taken the playdate ownership away from her. So, we’ve been trying a few things but it’s slow going.

Kids playing on playground

Planning a Children’s Playdate

Taking the cue from a few of her friends, my husband and I have been encouraging Olivia to call her friends up to coordinate their own playdate. We’ve also been a lot more open to “spur of the moment” playdates when we have a couple hours here or there. It’s much easier to do this now that she and her friends can pretty much entertain themselves without adult guidance. This summer, we started offering for her to ride her bike around the block (5 houses) to our neighbor’s house to play with a friend. She wasn’t quite ready for that but we’ll pick this back up again this summer. I feel as if there is more I should be doing to transition out of the playdate coordinator role. I could use some parenting advice.

How do you help your children nurture friendships? What has worked for you when coordinating playdates? Have you transitioned out of the lead role as playdate coordinator? How have you given your child more autonomy and ownership over scheduling playtime with his or her friends?

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