1. Don’t take offense
You’re a dude. Most of the play date parents you will deal with, especially if you are a stay-at-home dad, will be moms. They may feel weird about dropping their kid off at your house for two hours when they hardly know you. Not to mention that you may or may not be a gigantic scary looking human being to their small child. It’s all about comfort levels.
2. Keep it neutral
Choosing your house for the “first date” is going way too fast. Meet up somewhere public like a playground so if it doesn’t go well there is no pressure to reciprocate.
3. Set a time limit
Standard times are two hours for kids who can sustain play by themselves without parent interaction. This may include your child if he or she is age 4 or older. Kids who are younger than 4, trust me, an hour is going to be plenty.
4. Set parameters
Talk to the other parent about expectations, especially if the play date is at your house. Set a time to drop off and pick up. Once, I didn’t do this and the parent showed up three hours later. Apparently, she went to see a movie that she didn’t have time for usually and thought that was acceptable.
5. Exchange digits
If your play date parent is dropping off, make sure you have cell phone and home phone numbers in case something happens. Also, make sure the parent has yours in case he or she gets stuck in traffic or hung up somewhere.
6. Ask questions
Ask the parent if he or her child has any allergies or restrictions. Maybe they don’t eat a certain kind of food or are deathly allergic to something you think is otherwise safe.
7. Again, don’t be offended
If the parent you invited to the playground suddenly has her friends show up by “surprise,” let it go. She wasn’t sure of you, my friend, and having backup to talk to about girl stuff will probably make her more comfortable. While you may be comfortable watching others’ kids, they may not be until they know you more. Bonus: You just met more potential play date parents! Everyone wins.
8. Pay attention
Watch the interaction between your kid and his new “friend.” Does this kid share? Do they play well together? Does the play date kid offer to clean up without issue? Does the new friend scream when it is time for it to be over? These can all be things that make or break the play date.
9. Chat the other parent up
Don’t talk about football constantly. You may want to get her take on whether Julio Jones is going to score any fantasy points for you this week but that is not good form. Ask about her family and share information about yours. While the kids are getting to know each other, you should get to know the other parent.
10. Give it some time
Kids will rarely get along perfectly the first time. Keep trying these public play dates until you become more comfortable with the other parent’s child. When you do become comfortable, then you can offer to host at your house. Once you establish a rapport, you can trade off dates. Eventually you will have established a routine that allows for either of you to get some time to yourself without worry.
A version of this first appeared on DadNCharge.