This issue has more to do with the parents in your neighborhood than with the kids. On the one hand, it’s great that these children feel so welcome at your house that it’s become the neighborhood hang-out. Some moms and dads would give anything to be in your shoes. On the other hand, it’s apparent that you’re beginning to resent some of the expectations and responsibilities that come with this arrangement. That’s completely understandable.
So what should you do? Uncomfortable as it sounds, you need to initiate some friendly, straightforward conversations with the other parents on your street. Explain that while you love having their kids at your home, it would be helpful if everyone could agree on a few simple ground rules. For example, it would be a good idea if the kids brought along their own snacks rather than raiding your refrigerator every time they get hungry. You can also avoid a lot of bathroom clean-up and maintenance by suggesting that they visit the restroom at home before coming over to play. Naturally, you’ll want to sit down with your own kids first and make sure that they’re on board with this plan.
When you’re talking with the parents of the other kids, keep in mind that this can be a great time to learn more about them, their background, their perspective on life, and their basic values. Discuss the limits you set for your kids’ behavior and find out if they’re on the same page. If they are, and if you feel confident that they supervise their own children adequately, there’s no reason why you can’t allow your kids to spend some time playing at their homes. That way, you can begin to spread this responsibility around the neighborhood a little more evenly. While you want to protect your children from dangers and negative influences, it’s important to remember that you can’t keep them cloistered at home until they’re thirty years old.
If you’re a Christian, you can turn this situation into a marvelous opportunity for evangelism. The neighborhood kids obviously like you and your children, and it’s plain that their parents feel comfortable allowing their kids to play at your house. Therein lie the seeds of an extremely effective witness. If these children aren’t believers, your kindness and hospitality will make a lasting impression on them and their families. This in turn may open a door for you to share Christ with them.
If you’d like to discuss this issue with a member of our staff, please feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.