When our kids are little, they lean on us almost entirely to plan their play dates and engagements with friends, but as they grow older, they begin taking more and more of that on for themselves.
Making your home a "kid hub" (a place where your kids and their friends will want to hang out and spend time together) can alleviate some of the stress that comes with watching them grow up into increasingly independent pre-teens and teens. Having them around won't just help put your mind at ease knowing they're safe, but it will also keep you connected to their lives in a way that isn't as easy when all of their time spent with friends happens elsewhere.
From things as simple as making sure you have extra snacks in the pantry and extra chairs around the table, to outright telling them how much you enjoy having their friends around, these few ideas will help you keep your home bustling with kid energy well into your child's final years in high school.
Snacks & Meals
It can be hard to provide for the caloric needs and cravings of growing minds and bodies, but having good snacks around is a surefire way to make your home a place where your kids and their friends want to spend time. This can be anything from a full-on meal, to a quick grab-and-go prepackaged snack from the grocery store. Helping your kids' friends feel as welcome in your home as your own kids is what matters, and nothing says that more than providing for one of their main needs as a growing human being—nourishment!
Always cook for more than you plan for so you're ready to say yes when your kids ask if their friends can stay for lunch or dinner. Make sure your kids know they're welcome to host (and feed!) their friends in your own kitchen. You can even grocery shop with them in mind: "Pick out some things that you and your friends will enjoy when they're over." Your kid will love being able to pick out some of their own favorite snacks, and they'll know they're welcome to invite them over to spend time in your family home.
Update your game closet! The board games you gathered from your own college days, pre-kid days or even from the days when your kids were little may not be the most appealing for your pre-teen or teenage kid. While some games are timeless and bound to draw some appeal no matter how long they've been collecting dust, adding a new game or two to the pile may be necessary to capture their attention.
This could include board games or video games. Knowing your child's interests will help guide you in this decision-making process. You may even find it fruitful to pull out some old games that you enjoyed playing with friends at their age and pitching them as activities they might like to try with their friends. Try running a family game night or two to introduce the game to them, so they can then teach their friends how to play.
At the end of the day, it's having options around your house that support gathering, collaborating and spending time with others. Enjoying family games will support your child in planning with and hosting their friends!
Design With Many in Mind
When arranging your community spaces (living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, etc.), work to find ways to make it possible for many to gather at one time. This could mean simply having extra chairs or floor cushions available for sitting around the table or TV. This could also mean having more than one gathering area set up and ready for others to enjoy separately at the same time.
Involving your child in the design and selection process when purchasing new furniture or items for your living spaces will also instill sense of ownership. While it's your family home, your child's sense of ownership will directly correlate to whether or not they take the initiative to welcome their friends into the space. Getting them involved in designing and maintaining the space will encourage them to host their own gatherings in it.
Weather-permitting, there's nothing more fun than a bonfire or a movie night under the stars! Especially for those of us with limited living space inside our homes, creating outdoor living spaces adds to the potential for gatherings. It allows for the kids to enjoy hosting friend events without feeling like they're impeding on others in your family (taking the TV or dining space away from another sibling or parent).
If you have the space, make it welcoming, accessible, unique and fun! This is a guaranteed way to encourage your kids to stay home and host rather than go out to another venue to gather with their friends!
No matter how many snacks, games or welcoming spaces and seats for guests you have in your home, nothing encourages your child to host their own friend gatherings in your family home better than simply communicating with them. Making these efforts to create an environment that they can enjoy with their friends is one step in communicating your support of helping them cultivate healthy social circles, but overt communication is also necessary. Don't neglect to tell your kids how much you enjoy seeing them and their friends around, hearing their commotion in your house and even telling their friends how welcome they are.
Finding the balance between keeping your distance and being involved is the never-ending tight rope of parenting, but never shy away! Taking a bit of time to check in with your kids and their friends when they're together is rewarding for all involved—listen in and learn about all of their interests, what they're enjoying doing and what they're worried about. They'll feel more at home, and you'll rest easy with a better notion of the safety and comfort of your child and their circle of friends!
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