Your kid comes up to you on a Friday morning before breakfast and asks if one of their buddies can hang out at their house after school. You nod your head in assent, but your gut knots up as your child reveals the identity of their playmate.
Although it makes you glad to watch your child making friends with other children and having a good time with them, you have never really connected with the parent of this other child. It seems like the topics of conversation at play dates often end up being ones that neither of you particularly love, and there were signs that the two of you do not share the same views on a variety of issues pertaining to life and parenting.
You may wish that weren’t the case, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get along with the parents of all of your child’s friends’ parents. Sometimes different parenting beliefs or personalities can cause friction in a relationship. It’s fine if you don’t want to be friends with the other parents, but in many situations, it’s better to avoid conflict for the sake of your children if at all possible.
At other times, it’s important to pay attention to what your instincts tell you and do your best to maintain some distance.
Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why you might not get along with the parents of your child’s friend’s children as well as some potential solutions to this problem.
Do You Have to Be Friends With Your Child’s Friends Parents?
You are not obligated to be friends with anyone, not even the parents of the children your child plays with. The perfect fantasy of having a group of close parent-friends whose children grow up together may not be your reality, at least not with all of the parents of your child’s friends. Despite how much you may wish to live out this fantasy, it is possible that this may not be the case for you.
According to Gayle Weill, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice who specializes in child-parent psychotherapy, “[not being friends with your child’s friend’s parents] may make navigating play dates more difficult, and you should be polite and cordial to them, but befriending them is not a necessity.”
Determine Your Reasons for Not Liking the Parents
There are instances when our parenting styles simply don’t mesh well with those of other parents, but there are also occasions when there may be a rational explanation for why we don’t have a pleasant feeling around them. Finding out why you don’t get along with the parent(s) in question will help you figure out how to approach your relationship with them.
The following are some of the more typical explanations for why parents do not always get along.
It’s understandable if you don’t always look forward to having conversations with the other parent. For example, if they love to discuss home decor but you’re more of an outdoorsy type, or if the other parent always wants to talk about movies but you’re not much of a film buff, or if they love to discuss home decor but you’re more of an outdoorsy type.
Even though our interests are divergent, it is important to maintain a friendly demeanor and make an attempt to get along. According to Laura Doyle, a relationship coach and author of the New York Times best-selling book “Things will Get as Good as You Can Stand,” “Know your deal breakers and anything outside of that, grin it and bear it.”
Opposing Parenting Philosophies
It’s possible that you take a more relaxed approach to parenting, but the parents of your child’s classmate take a more strict stance. Or, perhaps you are the parent that adheres to a stricter routine, and you believe the approach taken by the other parent is too slack.
It is not uncommon for parents to have contrasting approaches to child rearing, and it may be in everyone’s best interest to make an effort to look past these differences and adopt a “live and let live” attitude. You are free to set boundaries for yourself or separate yourself from the other parent if you do not feel comfortable being around them or having your child be around them. For example, if the other parent spanks your child in front of your child, you may choose to set boundaries.
If you and the other parent hold different political views, it may be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when dealing with your child. However, make an effort to keep the emphasis on the significance of the friendships your child has. When discussing politics, it is advisable to steer the conversation in a different direction.
You might also want to be straightforward and inform the other parent that you don’t agree with them but that you’d rather not have the conversation about it. According to Doyle, “open communication is really important, and by modeling this in front of your children, the parents will be setting a good example for empathy, compassion, and tolerance of other viewpoints.” “Open communication is really important,” says Doyle. “By modeling this in front of your children, you will be setting a good example for empathy,
Tips for Managing the Relationship
Avoid Controversial Topics
Regardless of how strongly you feel about the issues at hand, whether they be political, religious, or philosophical, the fact of the matter is that the other parent is not likely to be swayed by your arguments. These are the kinds of subjects that are likely to spark intense debates that can become nasty very fast.
A solid rule of thumb to follow while hosting play dates is to stay completely away from very contentious subjects. According to Doyle, “some topics are safe to speak with anyone and don’t provoke upsets or misunderstandings” (there are some topics that can be safely discussed with anyone). “Stick to subject issues that naturally engender agreement, and don’t bring up contentious topics,” the speaker said.
Don’t Badmouth the Other Parent
It is best practice to keep your child in the dark if you do not get along with the parents of their child’s friends. It is important to refrain from badmouthing the other parent or making comments about how you feel about them. According to Weill, “this could make your youngster feel uncomfortable and could produce unpleasant feelings if the gossip got back to the parents.”
If your child is older, they may be able to figure out that you and the other parent have some significant disagreements about parenting issues. In the event that this occurs, it is imperative that you always respect the other parent. You may choose to say something along the lines of “Yes, we differ about some things, but we will still speak kindly to one another.”
Get Together as a Group
If you don’t get along with any of the children or their parents, getting together with a larger group of both may help relieve some of the tension. Play dates with other children can be a helpful approach to avoid uncomfortable silences or interactions that feel unduly forced. Doyle observes that “having more parents to socialize with generates a type of buffer zone” for their children.
Give the Benefit of the Doubt
Don’t make snap judgments based on what you perceive to be the case at first. It’s possible that a parent who you disliked at first will wind up becoming someone you get along well with. Weill advises, “Try to regard them positively even if you don’t want to invite them over for movie night,” even if you don’t want to invite them over for movie night.
“Having a pleasant attitude toward them will have a direct impact on how you behave around them and will prevent the relationship from becoming strained.”
Sometimes other parents will say or do things that make us uncomfortable or that we do not want our children to be exposed to. We do not want them to hear or see these things. Even if it is of the utmost importance to pay attention to your gut feelings at all times, there are situations in which setting clear boundaries can assist you in maintaining contact without sacrificing your principles.
For instance, you might inform another parent that you would be pleased to continue getting together with them and their child so long as they refrained from using inappropriate language in front of the children. This would allow you to continue spending time with all of you children. Alternately, you may let them know that your household does not allow televisions, computers, or other electronic devices, and that you would prefer any play dates to adhere to this rule.