Childhood is supposed to be fun. As parents, we want our children to have fun as kids, but we also have an obligation to protect them—from themselves as well as the irresponsibility of others. I have to admit that my kids, being the children of a personal injury attorney, had it a bit rough. They learned very early on that if they were going to spend the night at a friend’s home—or even just get dropped off for a party or play date—the other kid’s parents were going to get questioned first.
Below are some of the questions I used with my kids and an explanation for them.
Parental supervision is probably the most overlooked and assumed thing asked about. How much supervision you require may be a factor of the kid’s age, the number of kids present, and other potential issues in the home. But you need to ask the parents this question. You would be surprised how many times you will learn that the parents “have to be gone briefly” to pick up another child or run an errand. That brief moment may turn into hours if things do not go as planned.
How many kids will be there?
One adult may be plenty of supervision for two teens. But if they are having an entire group over this could be a whole different story. Will it be boys and girls too?
What will they be doing while there?
You want to know if there are any planned activities. Some red flags, to at least ask more questions can be uncovered from this question. Some parents think it is fine for their kids and their friends to play with bows and arrows, knives, and pellet guns. Maybe you agree, maybe you do not. Maybe you want to know the level of experience with these things everyone present will have before your child is left there.
Do you have any pets?
I have seen many children bitten because they went to someone’s home and that person had a dog that did not know them. If my kids are going to someone’s home and they have a dog, I want to know more. What breed? How big is it? Has it ever bitten anyone before? How often has it been around strangers? Will it be put up or left out? Does it have puppies? (Animals can be protective of their young.) Also, some people have exotic pets ranging from snakes to spiders. I want to know what potential hazards are present before my child spends time there.
Do you have a swimming pool?
In addition to knowing whether to send a swimsuit or not, this information is helpful in knowing what to instruct your child. Maybe you do not want them going near a pool without you being present. Maybe you need to tell them “no swimming without parents out there too.” Child drowning cases can arise in private pools due to too many children present, parties with no one paying attention, lack of supervision, and many other reasons.
Do you have a trampoline?
Trampoline accidents are very common. Do the parents have ground rules? Do they require active supervision? Without proper supervision, kids may be tempted to jump with more than one on the trampoline at a time. In a split-second heads can knock and someone can be severely injured.
Who else will be present in the home?
Older siblings and/or their friends can be a risk factor. What do you know about them? Are they into drugs or alcohol? Do they have a criminal history? You need to explore who else will be present—particularly if your child is spending the night.
Do you have homeowner’s insurance that will cover all of the above hazards?
Homeowner’s insurance policies contain exclusions. The number of people who think they are protected only to learn later that there was a canine exclusion or a swimming pool exclusion is very sad. Make sure they know what they have if dangerous activities are to be included in the stay.
As parents, it is important to ask the right questions before you put your child at risk. It is ok to say “no.” If you are unsure of the safety of your child, you should always say “no.” Your child might be mad for a while, but they will get over it. Be safe and not sorry.