My daughter has been invited to play at a classmate’s house, but I am concerned about the supervision at this girl’s home. She looks neglected in terms of hygiene and clothing, and her mother seems very self-involved. How should I handle the situation?
When I visit classrooms, I am struck by the diversity that I see in many schools. Children are from a wide range of social, economic and cultural backgrounds. Even in schools where the children are from similar types of homes or religions, there is diversity. This diversity allows children to see their world in a larger context.

Teachers place children into work and play groups throughout the school day without regard to their appearance or backgrounds. Many elementary-school teachers refer to the children as “friends” instead of as boys and girls. Thus, they become friends at school and it would not occur to them that they could not be friends outside of the school as well. That is, until we adults teach them differently.

This is not to say that you should ignore your responsibility of protecting your daughter from harmful situations. Unfortunately, we have heard too often of the tragic consequences when children are left without responsible adult supervision.

Your dilemma is to find a way to preserve the caring spirit that your daughter is developing without ignoring her safety and security.

Here are some suggestions that I believe will do both:

• Ask your daughter’s friend to play at your house. Communicate directly with her mother and discuss the plans, including the specific times. Make clear arrangements for pickup and return-home trips.

• Arrange with the friend’s mother to take the girls together on an outing to a park, swimming pool or shopping mall for lunch. Use the time to get to know the mother, which may make you more comfortable in allowing your daughter to visit their home another time.

• Invite the girl’s mother to join a school committee with you. Use your daughter’s friendship to make your own connection. Although the woman might not become your best friend, this may help you decide if you can allow your daughter to play at her house sometime in the future.

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