How To Navigate Meeting & Bonding With A New Friend's Children

Here’s How To Navigate Meeting & Bonding With A New Friend’s Children

June 10, 2024


Having a new friend who may or may not be a parent can feel a little awkward on the surface. Not because having a child is some rare or strange thing, nor that your friend is an insufficient parent. Rather, meeting any new child as a strange adult (to them) can be awkward to begin with. Children, especially young children, come in all sorts of personality types, and so putting them at ease, making certain you know your friend’s parenting style, and being mindful and friendly will be key.

But of course, what if the child is a little unruly? What if your friend has different parenting norms than you think is normal within your own family? It’s hard to chastise a child for cursing if their parent is okay with it, after all, as we are not the authority over them. That being said, if a child is obviously putting themselves in harm’s way, then stepping in is our obligation as an adult.

In this longer post, we’re going to help you navigate this tricky consideration with grace. Ultimately, being kind, communicative, open and taking directions from your friend is the best way to start. In this guide, we’ll cover a number of helpful tips if you feel a little nervous to ingratiate yourself into their family setup.

Approach With A Positive Attitude

You might not be super comfortable around children you don’t know, but if a friend is inviting you to their place, they trust that you’ll be a good presence in their home. That’s why bringing a gift such as a lovely plushie, showing a warm smile and giving a friendly greeting, as well as clearly telling them your name, can be nice.

When you give the gift, it can be helpful if you crouch down to their level. It adds a sense of friendship and shows that you’re not to be feared while in the home. It also means you’ve respected your friend by treating their child as a real person and not just an accessory, which, unfortunately, some people might do.

How To Navigate Meeting & Bonding With A New Friend's Children

Respect Their Comfort Zone

It’s certainly wise to respect your friend’s child’s comfort zone. Not all children are as happy to have a stranger in their household as others, even if you know their parent and are clearly not a threat. It might take a little while, perhaps even a few days or weeks, to get used to you. As such, don’t compel an answer from them, or force a conversation if they don’t want to talk, or joke about how shy they are. It’s nice to pay them a compliment, such as wearing a cool shirt or being interested in their drawing. Simple positive interactions like this can be a nice staging ground.

Ultimately, you’re there for your friend, but as an adult cutting through that unfamiliar energy can be a good first step. From there, let them remain in their comfort zone.

It’s Fine To Enforce Your Boundaries, Too

So far we’ve discussed how to begin if your friend’s child is a little shy and unsure of you. But not all children are like that. Some of them can be (what we might consider) a little overly keen. That might include trying to climb up you, jumping on top of you while seated, trying to look at your phone or simply asking you a million questions. Of course, there’s no malice in this (unless there are actual behavioral problems like hitting), but gentle direction can help a child know where your boundaries are. 

That might involve pushing them away and saying “no thank you” if they’re trying to climb on you. It might involve asking your friend to stop their child. If they’re misbehaving, you are well within your rights to correct action, such as stopping them from throwing things or hitting you, being very gentle, and only applying the right amount of force to stop while you call their parent to take over. Of course, this is unlikely to happen, but you don’t have to dismiss your own boundaries so as not to cause offence.

How To Navigate Meeting & Bonding With A New Friend's Children

Be Supportive Of Their Parent’s Rules

Your friend is the authority in the household of course, and so being their ally in how they parent, when that’s required, is important. For example, encouraging them to go to bed and wishing them a good night can be important if your friend is having a tough time. It shows a unified front and that you expect them to go to bed. 

If your friend has specific rules they would prefer their child to abide by, helping them do so is also a good idea. In most cases, you don’t need to get involved, but you can help in little ways such as carrying bags or just offering moral support. Don’t be afraid to disagree if a child asks you for something you know has been outlawed by the parent, such as ice cream after a meal, or a sip of your wine while on vacation. Never, ever underestimate how crafty children can be, so be clear of the ground rules.

Understand They’re Just Children

If we don’t have children or have many relatives with them, it’s easy to forget how they behave. Putting it simply, children are unpredictable. They’re just kids, too. Even if they misbehave one day, it doesn’t mean they’re a nightmare child who needs to be ignored or reprimanded at every turn. If they’re shy with you today, they might not be tomorrow. It’s not easy to deal with this kind of variance day by day if you’re unused to being around them, but of course, most of us were like this at one point or another. 

So don’t feel too awkward if they throw a temper tantrum in public, if they fall asleep the entire car journey if they are a little annoying by our adult terms, it’s just how little ones are. Again, odds are everyone who reads this post was like this at one point. Children are learning to be a brand-new human beings, and that’s not always a smooth process. It’s up to us as adults to be the calm oasis of predictability, as far as children can see at least. As such, trying to be an affable and good example is a good idea.

How To Navigate Meeting & Bonding With A New Friend's Children

Ask About Any Restrictions

It’s important to be mindful of the actual health considerations and imperatives that a parent might need to enforce. For example, maybe their child has diabetes and requires multiple insulin shots during your time with them. Giving them the privacy and space to do that can be important. If you become very good friends over time and a part of the family unit, then perhaps you could ask to learn how to administer such medication just in case of an emergency. 

There may also be dietary requirements to think of. Suppose your friend is coming to your place for lunch and bringing their child. In that case, a severe nut allergy may require locking away any nuts you have, making certain you deep clean your kitchen and its surfaces, and thoroughly washing your hands before preparing their food, as well as being very clear what ingredients have been included. That might sound a little frustrating on the surface, but of course, no measure is too great to ensure a child is cared for correctly.

Mind Your Own Conduct

Odds are, you’re a lovely person anyone would be lucky to have as a friend. That being said, if we’re not used to being around kids, we might not realize just how our personalities can be. For example, if you curse a little too often, it can be good to focus on cutting that out completely around the little ones.

You might also show a little more patience, understanding, and less irritation if out in public. Remember that children tend to look to adults for cues on their behavior, and so it’s good to set a good example. Sometimes, that might even mean setting a good example for ourselves once more. That’s not to say you act like a ruffian when out in public, only that if you’re a normal adult, you might be expressive in adult ways that aren’t the best for children to see. Think about how you’d like someone to act around your own children, and follow suit where you can.

How To Navigate Meeting & Bonding With A New Friend's Children

Be Nice, But Don’t Feel Obligated

When with your friend you may be more than wiling to help out, to greet their child, and to be a cherished presence in the house. But that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to look after their children at short notice, or to be responsible for them if you’re uncomfortable doing so. It’s a lot of responsibility to watch someone elses’ child for them, and if you’d rather not, you’re more than fine for refusing.

That being said, it’s important to remember that those with children will always put their child first. They come as a package as having a new friend. So putting in boundaries, while also being mindful of their needs can be key.

With this advice, you’ll be certain to navigate meeting and bonding with a new friend who happens to have children.

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