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Neighbor Kids Won’t Go Home? Real Advice From Parents [Block Talk]
Neighbor Kids Won’t Go Home? Real Advice From Parents [Block Talk]
Neighbor Kids Won’t Go Home? Real Advice From Parents [Block Talk]

Published on: 04/13/2024


Whether hospitality is reciprocated is no big deal to readers responding to a survey asking how to set boundaries when neighborhood kids won’t go home. “You will be remembered forever as the cool mom who was always there for the kids.” one person said.
Whether hospitality is reciprocated is no big deal to readers responding to a survey asking how to set boundaries when neighborhood kids won’t go home. “You will be remembered forever as the cool mom who was always there for the kids.” one person said. (Shutterstock)

ACROSS AMERICA — Forgive the cliché, but it does “take a village” to raise children, according to readers responding to our survey for Block Talk, Patch’s exclusive neighborhood etiquette column.

We asked how to set boundaries with neighbor kids without damaging their friendships with your children and your relationship with their parents, especially if they never reciprocate.

“You don’t. Just enjoy the kids,” said Howell (New Jersey) Patch reader Robin. “Sometimes horrible stuff is going on you are not aware of. I had this happen to us. We took those kids in for 22 years. God is faithful.”

Ruth, a Maryland Patch reader, agrees.

“We have been in the exact situation, and I had a feeling something was happening in the other kids’’ lives,” Ruth said. “We chose to provide them with a respite, a chance for a peaceful family time. Months later, we found out that one of the parents was moving away, which explained a lot.

“That family then reached out to us and thanked us for offering their kids a place to be when they were going through a tough time,” she continued. “It taught me to never assume anything and always be welcoming to others.”

“I don’t know what goes on in others’ homes, so I feel if they are seeking refuge and peace in mine, I’ll be thankful,” said Reston (Virginia) Patch reader Lynne.

“I don’t say anything unless a child is being a problem,” Lynne continued. “I feel fortunate to be able to feed and house them, and I like that they feel safe and comfortable in my home. I’d prefer they be in my house so I can know more about what they are doing, and build positive relationships.”

Ruth echoed that. “If your kids are happy, if the extra guests are nice and the expenses won’t break the bank, it’s an excellent opportunity to teach your kids about kindness,” she said. “I know it can be exhausting at times, but I’d rather have my kids safe than send them to someone’s house because I’m keeping score. Life’s not about keeping score, but doing what’s right.”

Greenfield (Wisconsin) Patch reader Cindy agrees, too.

“I didn’t worry about doing more than other parents. I knew what was going on in their lives,” Cindy said. “My sons are grown now, but I gladly had their friends at my house after school and some staying for dinner. I knew the kids, and if it meant extra soda and snacks, I had the peace of mind that everyone was OK.”

‘I Was One Of Those Kids’

Avon (Connecticut) Patch reader Maria has no expectations of reciprocation, “although when it is, certainly it is appreciated,” she said. “We simply just tell them to go home when we want family time or just plain don’t want them over for whatever reason.”

It is OK to set limits in advance while at the same time letting kids know your door is always open in an emergency, agreed Harlem (New York) Patch reader Sherry. “Sometimes the kids stay because it’s a safe haven from their household drama or issues with exes, domestic abuse or drug use,” she said.

“I was one of those kids whose mom left and never came back,” said Across America Patch reader Julie said she was “one of those kids whose mom left and never came back,” so when her children bring home kids who didn’t seem to want to leave, she asked questions, learning “some parents were drug addicted or even homeless.”

Manchester (New Jersey) Patch reader Glenn said parents who open their homes to neighborhood kids “are blessed.”

“I, too, had the good fortune for living in the home where the young people would gather. I, too, would find the groceries decimated by a troop of hungry boys. I would often have the quiet stirred by the joyful giggly shrieks of my daughter’s ‘girls,’” Glenn said. “That was many years ago. When the children grew and moved away, as my gramma would say, ‘the quiet was deafening.’

“I was comfortable knowing where my children and their friends chose to be, and be a part of their activities,” Glenn said. “I wouldn’t change that for the world. Be careful what you wish for.”

‘Someone, Please Tell Me How’

With the knowledge the kids aren’t in a dangerous home, what’s the best way to set limits?

“Someone, please tell me how,” said Phoenixville (Pennsylvania) Patch reader Lauren. “I’ve been struggling with this for years.”

Bensalem (Pennsylvania) Patch reader Claire advised against overthinking it.

“Simple, say they can’t hang out today,” Claire said. “If my kids have friends over and we have an event to go to and they want to tag along, then I tell them how much they need. It’s simple!”

“Setting boundaries is a normal and healthy part of life,” said Laguna Beach (California) Patch reader Dianne M. “Your children can only learn these things if you teach them.”

Batavia (Illinois) Patch reader Sue said it’s important for parents to let their kids know why they’re setting boundaries.

“You also need to explain to your children that sometimes families need alone time to do things as a family,” Sue said. “If you let this issue get out of hand from the beginning, it’s harder to pull back without hurting someone’s feelings. Boundaries need to be set up at the beginning.”

“Set the same boundaries with your neighbor’s kids that your own kids have,” Malvern (Pennsylvania) Patch reader Cindy advised. “That includes what snacks they can eat and what chores are to be done. If your kids have rules about how much screen time they can have or what they may view, those same rules apply to the neighbors. House chores and house rules.”

She added, “Be pleased that you are providing a safe and welcoming environment that your kids feel comfortable entertaining in and that the neighbors feel safe in. You also have the advantage of witnessing their activities and offering guidance before things go wrong.”

Peace of mind is worth the price of a few meals and snacks, according to several readers, including Rivertowns (New York) Patch reader Cathryn.

“I would want my house to be the center for their friends so I always know where they are,” she said.

“I was always happy to have the kids hang at my house,” said Newtown (Pennsylvania) Patch reader Carol. “It made me feel good that my kids wanted to be home and that their friends were happy to be there.”

It’s no big deal to Upper West Side (New York) Patch reader Merne that her home is the go-to place for her kids’ friends to hang.

“There must be a reason they’re staying at your place, so be happy about that and their choice of a safe haven,” Merne said. “If you really need a date night, just call the other parents, and say, ‘Would it be OK if the kids hung out at your place tonight? We have something to do.’ ”

Besides, Merne said, “The best part is, they forget you’re there, and you can just be a fly on the wall. You’d be amazed at what you’d learn.”

Maureen, a Windsor Locks-East Windsor (Connecticut) Patch reader, said that other than setting boundaries on food, what they can watch on TV or the computer, and when they go home, “welcome them in and love them up.”

“Be grateful they are choosing your house instead of never being there,” Maureen said. “You know where your kids are and theyre safe. You make sure everyone understands the rules of the house and if they are followed, be grateful. This is a good scenario and you will be remembered forever as the cool mom who was always there for the kids.”

If the visits become a problem, involve the neighbor kids’ parents, said a California reader who goes by “Termite” and reads Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch and Long Beach Patch.

“Tell them you need to spend more time with just your own kids,” Termite said. “You must set a limit as to how long their child can stay and how often.”

“You can’t sugarcoat boundaries,” Illinois Patch reader Dee said.

“What you allow will continue so sometimes you just have to say no,” Dee said. “We’ve talked to the parents and explained how we have schedules, especially with babies in the home.

“When that didn't work, I said if we’re outside in the front the kids can play for an hour or so. If anything positive came from the pandemic, it stopped people from showing up unannounced. Eventually the kids grew out of that phase, but you just have to be direct with the parents.”

“You don’t have to be a jerk, but don’t be wimpy about it. It’s your home,” said Nashua (New Hampshire) Patch reader Dolores.

If it’s mealtime and time for neighborhood kids to go home, firmly but politely say so. If the refrigerator is off limits, tell them. If they exhibit any other unacceptable behavior, say, “Sorry, but we don’t do that in this house,” Dolores said. “That’s what I was told when I was a kid in the ’60s.”

Seminole Heights (Florida) Patch reader Darl grew up with the same code.

“My parents just used to say, ‘So-and-so, you need to go to your home now,” Darl said. “They have to do their chores, eat dinner, do homework, whatever. It was no big deal. They left.”

The ‘Addams Family,’ Though

Massachusetts Patch reader JT suspected the neighbor kids’ parents were more than happy to unload their kids for a while, especially if a meal was involved.

“Don’t let people take advantage of you,” JT said. “When I had this problem, I sent the kids home, telling them to bring a parent back with them and we would have a meal together. They never came back because the mom was just looking for free babysitting.

“You don’t want to be friends with people like this,” JT went on. “I encouraged my kids to find other friends, and they did. Thirty years later, our kids are no longer friends with each other but my husband and I still are friends with several of the parents that we met through our kids.”

JT qualified the hard line, saying, “I do realize that some really great kids have bad parents. If that is the case, that is a totally different story, and please look at their child as a ‘bonus child” and welcome him or her into your home. It is not the child’s fault.”

“Honestly, I like that my kiddo’s best neighborhood friend chooses to spend time at our house,” said Woodbury (Minnesota) Patch reader Junie. “If there are situations where we don’t want another kid around, we openly communicate it.”

There are exceptions. “There are neighborhood kids who we do not want at our home due to issues they’ve caused, including not listening when we’ve told them it was time to go home, intentionally destroying things and bad language,” Junie said. “While our relationship with that parent has suffered, I do not feel bad about it. At the end of the day, I have to protect my kids.”

It may please Junie to know that readers “Gomez and Moticia Addams,” who read Minneapolis Patch also want to protect neighborhood kids — from them. Weed is legal in their state, and they like to take a little 4:20 break — if you know, you know — and don’t want kids wandering over to their patio. They also throw profanity bombs around, explaining:

“We are in our 40s and not the best influence. … Without being unfriendly, we put out a vibe that kids need to recognize and respect,” the readers said.

“We don’t want them to be so scared of us that they wouldn't seek us out in an emergency, or make us out to be a wicked couple who belong in a fairy tale,” the comment continued. “We also don't want their parents in our face because their kid came home from a place they shouldn't have been and said (expletive).”

About Block Talk

Block Talk is an exclusive Patch series on neighborhood etiquette — and readers provide the answers. If you have a topic you'd like for us to consider, email [email protected] with “Block Talk” as the subject line.

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Posted Fri, Apr 12, 2024 at 3:09 pm ET

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