Boundaries for neighborhood kids
Moving into a neighborhood where there are other kids might have been the highlight of your childhood. Knowing you would always have someone to play with was the best thing ever when you were 10. Now that you are a parent, you see things from a different perspective. You want to know who your kids are playing with, but you don’t want the neighborhood to take over your house. You need to set some boundaries for neighborhood kids. There are 5 great areas you should consider setting boundaries before you find yourself wishing that you lived somewhere else.
#1 - Set your boundaries for ‘open hours’
Determine what is an acceptable time first thing in the morning that you are ok with neighborhood kids knocking on your door. For some that could be 9 am but for others that could be after lunch depending on your family routine. Prioritize your family routine and let neighborhood kids know what is the earliest time your kids are usually allowed to play for the day. Determine an evening time as well. Are you ok with your kids playing til dark each day or do you want them in earlier to get ready for bed? Setting your ‘open hours’ boundaries for neighborhood kids will help them know when its ok to come over and will save you lots of frustration when other family’s standards are different than yours. Make sure this is clear. You can even put a sign by your front door.
#2 - Set your boundaries for lunch
You may not mind neighborhood kids eating lunch with you several times a week, but if you do, let your kids know. If you want to limit neighborhood kids eating lunch with you to one time or several times just be sure that you build in some margin for yourself. It’s ok to say no most of the time and then when you say yes, it becomes an exciting event for your kids.
#3 - Set your boundaries for quiet times
If you don’t do quiet times with your kids you are missing out. Even after kids outgrow afternoon naps around age 3-5, you should establish a quiet time until around 10 years old or even older. My standard was that they had to be in a room, preferably by themselves, and they had to be quiet. If they were in a room with someone else then that requires more monitoring to eliminate the interactions. They could read, write, sleep or draw. If they were a non-reader (I don’t mean they don’t like to read...I mean they can’t read yet) then they could listen to audiobooks. My goal was to have them rest. They didn’t have to take a nap. But even being away from others and being less active gave them some much-needed rest. Sometimes that was enough to help them get through the day with less fighting.
Our quiet time was right after lunch for between 1-2 hours. Let your neighborhood kids know when your kids will be available to go back outside in the afternoon after lunch and quiet or nap times. Setting boundaries with neighborhood kids will set the expectation so they aren’t knocking on the door right after lunch disturbing YOUR quiet time.
#4 - Set your boundaries for dinner
This may be different than lunch. Perhaps dad is not around during lunch and you don’t mind having neighborhood kids over for lunch sometimes. But maybe dinner is when the family is all together. In that case, you don’t want your kids asking for neighborhood kids to eat dinner with you every night. For your family’s sake, you should set a standard that dinner is generally for family only. Maybe one or two night’s a week they can have neighborhood friends eat with you. Or maybe you are more relaxed about that and it can be several nights a week. Just let your kids know the standard. They may still ask but you can refer them back to the boundaries you set.
#5 Set your boundaries for time spent playing inside.
Not only do kids need to spend time playing outside but YOU need for your kids to spend time playing outside. However, there will be times when playing inside is a good plan. For you to keep your sanity you need to set a standard for how often that will be. You should start with minimal time. Maybe an hour or two a couple of times a week to begin with. I would also reserve that typically for if it is raining. It is always good to know who your kid’s friends are, but having them in your house all day long and day after day becomes draining on everyone. Limiting the time neighborhood kids are in your house will help you to get to know them but also allow you to maintain your home as a safe-haven for your family.
Remember this is your home and you are free to set the rules. The problem is that most people don’t think through what they want and just make the rules up as they go. That will frustrate you and confuse your kids. Setting boundaries for the neighborhood kids will establish the plan so everyone knows what to expect. Be sure to communicate that plan to both your kids and the neighborhood kids as well as their parents if possible. Prioritize your family while still allowing flexibility for unusual circumstances or reaching out to others in need.
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