Is it reasonable for parents to know who their child’s friends are and to meet them? Most definitely. In fact, it may be irresponsible not to. At least until the end of grade nine, and ideally until the end of high school, parents should know the friends with whom their child associates outside of school hours.
The only justification for refusing to introduce friends to parents is if the parents are rude, drunk, or otherwise behaving inappropriately. Otherwise, if a child does not bring friends to meet the parent(s), it is safe to assume there is something to hide. Either the child knows the parents would not approve of the friends, or the friends are not comfortable with parents. Friends who are uncomfortable with parents (not just shy) likely know that there is something about them of which adults disapprove. It is asking for trouble to allow children under high school age to have aspects of their lives about which we know nothing.
It is a good idea to meet the parents of our children’s friends. Once they are in high school it is not always realistic to know parents, but we should know their friends. If a child refuses to bring friends home, it is important to understand why.
Perhaps there is not a welcoming atmosphere. If we assault their friends with a barrage of questions, that may create discomfort. Kids need a place where they can be with their friends away from other family members. Especially at the junior high level, there is much they have to talk about that is not for our ears.
Once friends are comfortable in our home, they will open up more and more. At first, it is important to give them their space. If you feel that your home is “user friendly”, and your child still does not bring friends over you must look deeper.
Do they hang out at another friend’s home? Are parents around? Or do they avoid parents altogether, meeting in malls, parks or parking lots? Sometimes it is difficult to set boundaries, because there is wide variation in what other parents allow. You must trust your instincts.
Do not be intimidated by accusations that you are overprotective. Simply explain that if you are overprotective it is only because your children mean so much to you. At least until the end of grade nine, it is reasonable to know where our children are at all times. Throughout the high school years this should occur naturally, if only as a courtesy, although gradually we extend our trust.
Our relationship with our children’s’ friends can flow as a natural extension of our relationship to our children. If we are open and friendly with our own, then friends feel it and are drawn towards that energy. If the friends are a cause for concern due to alcohol or drug use, low commitment to school, or they are much older, then we must address these issues directly. As parents, we have a right to set boundaries and a responsibility to do so.
Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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