The Etiquette of Socializing With Friends Who Have Kids

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Monica Gabriel Marshall
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Art Credit: Nima Salimi

It's one thing when your friends start to get married, but it's a totally different ball game when they start having kids. While some people seem to naturally have the baby-taming gene, for those who don't, your friends' kids probably incite thoughts along the lines of, "Sorry, what am I supposed to do with this?" Whether you fall in the latter category or this is just your first foray into the world of "friends with children," Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, offers seven tips for navigating this new dynamic with grace.

01. Not everyone is a lover of kids – and that’s perfectly fine.

You have several choices when a friend asks, “Would you like to hold the baby?” If you would like to, go right ahead! If you would prefer not to, you can say in a friendly tone of voice, “She is precious, but I am going to admire her from your arms where I can see her better. I’m an uneasy baby handler." Don’t forget to smile admiringly so you don’t look upset or bitter. Your response is honest and authentic.

02. Be prepared when visiting the hospital.

If you go see a friend in the hospital who just had the baby, be sure to call ahead and ask if there is anything that they need. Hospital food is not known to be delicious and a treat from the outside world might be a welcomed thing. When you get into the hospital room, be ready to hold the baby after you sanitize your hands. Finally, be cognizant of time and keep your visit brief as both mom and dad will probably be tired and out of their element.

03. Always ask before offering a child a treat or a meal.

Some children may have severe allergies or require a special diet. It’s as courteous gesture to show consideration for their health and dietary restrictions.

04. Watch your vocabulary.

Children who are just learning to talk will parrot everything they hear. Even when you are around younger children, it’s respectful not to use bad language—for that matter, it’s respectful to watch your words around fellow adults, too!

05. Speak up.

It’s your responsibility to say something if a child is hurting another child or pet or breaking personal items. While it’s ultimately best for the parent to step in, sometimes that's not the case. The parent might not be around, or might not seem to care if their toddler is being unruly. If you see a child hitting or biting another child, pulling your pet’s ears, or destroying your wallpaper with markers, feel free to speak up in a kind but firm voice. (And consider an alternate meeting place next time.)

06. Know it's OK to not invite the kids.

If you are the host of a party and you receive a call from a parent, you are not obligated to make excuses. Simply say, “This party is for adults, and I can’t make an allowance for one child and not another. I’m sorry you can’t find a sitter. I completely understand. Let’s get together soon to catch up.” If you receive an invitation and it does not include the names of your kids, it’s fair to assume that your kids aren’t invited. It’s bad form to call and ask if they can attend because it puts the host on the spot.

07. Don’t be afraid to offer your friend help.

New moms often appreciate help from their friends. From watching the baby so she can take a nap or a shower, to dropping off a favorite meal, most friends will welcome a little help. Feel free to reach out and offer your assistance.