Around the time the pandemic hit, my husband and I were beginning to think about upgrading to a bigger home. We wanted a larger backyard with a deck to entertain, and a finished basement we could outfit with comfy couches, a TV, and maybe a Ping-Pong table. My vision was to have a home where we could gather our extended family for special occasions—and a place where our only child could corral all his friends. I wanted our house to be the tween and (eventually) teen hangout house.
There is a transition that happens sometime toward the end of elementary school, when parents stop coordinating “playdates” and kids start planning their own “hangouts.” It’s no longer a matter of scheduling get-togethers with the kids of the parents you like; now it’s about helping tweens get to-and-fro with the kids they are developing stronger bonds with. But because I know how important their friendships are to them at this age—not to mention how quality friendships can positively impact them well into adulthood—I have a vested interest in knowing the kids who are most important to my son.
Sadly, my dream teen hangout house was not meant to be. You know how this story goes: House-hunting during a pandemic seemed less than ideal, and then inventory crashed as demand skyrocketed, bidding wars ensued, all-cash offers were being thrown every which way, and now interest rates are what they are. But I have also found that you don’t need a huge space or a lot of money to make your home the place where your kids and their friends gravitate to after school and on the weekends.
Start by being the parent who offers
Step one in making your kid’s friends comfortable around you and in your home is by being the parent who offers. Offer car rides to school, offer to pick a couple up on the way to the pool, offer to open up your backyard to a slew of newly minted middle-schoolers (then put a TV and a Nintendo Switch outside, serve pizza, and be a hero).
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