Relationship Building: Is Your Home the Neighborhood Hangout?
Is your home a place where all the kids like to hang out? You may already be asking, "But why would I want all the neighbors' kids at my house every day? Can't they all just play somewhere else?" But hosting the afternoon hangout spot for your children's friends is one of the best ways to really learn about what's going on in their lives.
So, as you begin to open up your home, remember that this is not about having certain material things available or gaining status for yourself in the neighborhood. This isn't about who can get the best video game system to bribe children over to your house. This is not about being the "cool" mom. This is about creating a safe, fun environment for your child and his friends.
Sure, you can have some movies and video games on hand, but also have plenty of outdoor games and board games available. For younger children, have plenty of craft and art supplies around. You can even have some planned activities once in awhile. For your teens, consider purchasing a ping-pong table or air hockey game. You can even buy one at a used sporting goods store. If you like to cook, make a few special snacks for your kids. You don't have to go all out every time your child has friends over, but do what you can to make sure your home is a place in which your child is proud to spend time.
Here are some additional tips for making your home the neighborhood hangout:
1) Be available. Get to know your children's friends by attending their sporting events or other activities. Offer to drive your children and their friends to and from their after-school activities. You can learn a lot about what kinds of things your kids and their friends like to do, and how they interact with each other, by simply listening quietly as you drive.
2) Be there. Let your children and teens know that their friends are welcome, and make sure there's always an adult present whenever your kids entertain their friends in your home.
3) Be real. Don't try to be buddies with your kids' friends. Just be yourself. Be open and welcoming, and not judgmental. If you don't approve of one of your children's friends, address it privately with your child; and instead of pointing out the friend's faults, focus on how their negative traits change or influence your child's behavior or attitude when they are with them.
4) Be flexible. Offer a variety of both outdoor and indoor games and activities available that your kids and their friends can enjoy, regardless of the weather.
5) Be ready. Keep a stock of easy snack foods on hand. Frozen pizzas, soft pretzels, popcorn, fresh fruit, sandwiches, yogurt, cheese sticks, juice boxes, chips and dip, cookies and muffins are just a few popular choices.
6) Be visible… but don't hover. Let your children and their friends have a certain amount of privacy, but do let them know you'll be looking in on them from time to time.
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