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Visiting Others’ Homes With Your Children

When you are in someone else's home with your children, there are considerations beyond those of simply being a pleasant guest. Far too many people seem to have missed some basics of being a decent parent, especially while visiting, so here's a list as a refresher.

  • If your child has or has recently had any kind of contagious illness or any parasite infestation, inform your host of this fact in advance so that he may decide whether or not he wants said contagion or parasite in his home. Yes, lice count.
  • You are responsible for your child at all times, period. Do not expect others to care for or monitor your children unless they have made a sincere offer to do so for this specific occasion.
  • Older children resident in the home in which you are visiting do not exist to act as babysitters for your child. If you wish to engage their services, make a specific request to do so, with reimbursement agreed upon in advance. Such arrangements are made for a specific time period and should not be assumed to be in effect during future visits.
  • Make no assumptions as to the safety precautions taken in others' homes. Even if your host states that his home is "babyproofed," people have wildly varying standards regarding what constitutes "babyproof" and children are remarkably inventive in their ability to find new ways to harm themselves.
  • Watch your infant or toddler constantly and closely. Do not let a child of that age out of your view unless someone else in whom you place a great deal of trust has offered to monitor the child. If someone else is watching your child, check on them regularly. Traveling with something like a pack-n-play is highly recommended.
  • Check on older children at age-appropriate intervals. Do not assume that all is well without assuring yourself of that fact through first-hand observation. "I didn't hear anything wrong" isn't enough.
  • When your host points out something that your child is doing, there is a reason for it. Taking no action or waiting for another to act is unacceptable. If your child just put something in her mouth, you need to get up immediately and find out what it was unless the child is at table and you know that the only items within her reach are intended to be consumed by her. If your child has soiled his diaper, you should be the first to notice it and take care of the situation - not your host.
  • Homes are not playgrounds, and should not be treated as if they were.
  • Your host is not responsible for keeping items that might be damaged by your child, or that your child may use to hurt himself or others, out of your child's reach.
  • If you do not discipline your child immediately and consistently when necessary, it is very unlikely that your family will be welcome guests in many homes. Do not place your host in the awkward position of needing to ask you to discipline your child, or worse, doing so themselves.
  • Rude or sullen comments and attitudes are not "just being a kid" or "just acting like a teen." They are rude and unpleasant.
  • If your child is being very disruptive, poorly behaved, or simply unpleasant, you should excuse yourself and your child from the occasion. That may mean ending a dinner or other planned event early, but such is to be expected as a parent or hosts of families with children.
  • Teach your child that it is never appropriate to touch other people in any way without their specific consent. Obviously, that means that nobody should be touching your child without her consent, either.
  • Soiled diapers should be removed to an outside trash container immediately, regardless of whether or not you detect a smell.
  • Do not allow your child to wander about with food or drink, especially with those that may cause stains, unless you are invited to do so by your host. Assume that children are expected to remain in the kitchen or dining room with their comestibles.
  • If you are the parent of a child who is too young to entertain himself quietly on his own, bring some kind of quiet diversion for him with you. Coloring books and crayons or colored pencils, a favorite toy or book, etc. are good. Do not assume that your host has such items, or is obligated to provide them, in her home.
  • Parents of small children should always travel with bottles, sippy cups, food or drink for their children, diapers, wipes, and a change of clothing. Please do not bring food and drink that are highly likely to cause stains - brightly colored drinks, tomato-based foods, etc. - into others' homes unless you will be monitoring their consumption very closely and confining your children to the kitchen while consuming them.
  • Clean your childrens' hands and faces immediately after meals or snacks, or have them do so. Grubby hands cause stains. Likewise, make sure that they always wash their hands thoroughly after any trip to the bathroom.
  • Teach your child that the only acceptable surfaces for coloring, writing or painting on are those that have been provided solely for that purpose. My child never marked on any wall or colored in any book other than a coloring book despite having constant access to art supplies from toddlerhood, so I know perfectly well that this is, indeed, possible.
  • If you are in the habit of using screen-based activities (television, computer or video games, etc.) as a pacifier for your children of any age, that is unfortunate. Do not expect to do so in others' homes.
  • If you have been invited to engage in a particular activity, such as gaming, watching a movie, or making music, make sure that your children do not disrupt that activity or at least minimize those disruptions as much as possible. My former partner and I, for instance, were very tolerant of the needs of infants and toddlers that were likely to arise while gaming, but some people are not. If your older child has been invited to attend an event with you, but has not been invited to join a game, the host will have presumably provided some other area in which he may spend his time. Don't expect the host to provide diversions, and do not allow your child to sit with you unless that is acceptable to the host or GM.
  • When invited to a social event, if children are not specifically invited, do not take them without asking your host for permission to do so. Some entertainments are adult-only, and children can be disruptive or change the feeling of such events by their very presence.
  • Respect your child's sleeping and eating schedule when making social plans. Do not arrive with a cranky toddler who is off his schedule because you were not thinking about the time. Do not assume that there will be a place for you to put the child down for a nap.
  • Even those who dearly love children and adore your children in particular are likely to find the presence of infants and toddlers very tiring if they are not accustomed to living with them on a daily basis. Do not outstay your welcome.
  • Last updated August 9, 2003