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Park And Play: Play Dates…More Than Just Fun And Games

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

I recently went to a bbq/kiddie b-day party for at the home of a friend I grew up with. And, while many years, if not decades have gone by, that “bond” was there, as if nothing had ever changed.

But, growing up back then, things were different. In fact, his pool party brought back memories of days gone by; days where all of us on our Brooklyn block would eagerly wait for one of the four boys to jump in the pool just so we could strike up a conversation with them across the fences in our attached Brooklyn backyards and hopefully get invited in.

Ah, those where the days my friend, and though we thought they’d never end, they have….and, they’ve been replaced by sprawling ranches in the suburbs and playgroups and play dates. And, for many this new concept in getting out of the house can mean a way for you and your child to make some new friends. Still experts point out that this weekly or daily commitment not be ideal for everyone.

1. Age issues: Upon attending a few times, you may find that not all the other moms and or kids are in your age group. Children grow and develop at different stages and paces and chances are that even if you do have kids that are the same age, the difference in age between you and the other moms can either make the experience pleasurable or not. With that said, experts suggest looking for a group that is mostly made up of moms close to your age and with kids on the same level as your own (child). You may even want to ask your doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician for recommendations.

2. Too much information station: You may find that in the beginning the commeraderie and exchange of ideas revolves around your little ones and around parenting (skills). But, note experts as time goes on and comfort levels increase you may find the ladies in the group doing what gals tend to do best, and that’s exchanging information, personal information that is. And, you may find that it’s simply TMI for you. If you’re comfortable enough, even if the other moms are enjoying the conversation, you can simply suggest that certain topics are simply too personal for you or you can excuse yourself and leave the group.

3. Kiddie Conundrum: As children grow and develop physically and emotionally at their own pace, you may begin to see a significant difference in abilities and personalities. And, that may prove frustrating for you and your child. You can try first speaking to the other parent or parents about the questionable behaviour or about how the other child or children can help your child in areas where he or she is not necessarily up to par. Or you can explain to the others the situation and at least temporarily remove yourself from the group.

4. Moms Behaving Badly: Moms have a tendency to place their children on a pedestal and you may find that while the kids are getting along, the moms may not be. In fact, they may be contributing to making the playgroup and uncomfortable environment by comparing the kids, and that may make the little ones feel uncomfortable as well, especially if they can’t live up to mom’s boasting and expectations. Consider mixing the group up a bi by either taking some time off, participating in another group every other week, or taking a break every few weeks.

5. Not The Playgroup Type: Maybe the issue in not the group, but rather you. That’s right, being that I’m an only child, I strongly prefer to work alone, rather than as part of a large group. And, many moms can be like that too. Consider instead to plan time with just one other mom (at a time), preferably people you already know and like, with children in the same age group as yours and that you already have plenty in common with.

Tips for taking a “time out”:

· Email notification: Consider a personal “confrontation” by simply emailing the entire group about your exit. This is the ideal way to keep it pleasant but non-personal and to steer clear of any on-the-spot questions. And, say experts, this works best with a group you haven’t been with too long and don’t know very well, otherwise it may come off as distant, rude and impersonal.

· Get someone else to do your “dirty work”: Rather than risking offending anyone, especially if you are new to the group, consider conveying the message through the friend that got you involved in the first place.

· One step at a time: Don’t back out completely and immediately. Instead cut back on attendance and clue people in to your eventual exit.

· Take a direct approach: Determine when you want to leave and let the group know at one of the next gatherings or meeting. This method is ideal if you are fairly close with other members of the group and for removing any guessing about what went wrong and why you left the group.

Just remember say experts to make sure that with all the above approaches the timing and the wording is right. You certainly don’t want to offend anyone or shut any doors, especially if there’s a chance you may need or want to go back again, or meet up with the moms at some point in the future.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Park And Play: Play Dates…More Than Just Fun And Games

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