What to Do If You Don't Like Your Child's Friend's Parents

kids on play date with parents

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Friday morning at breakfast, your child asks you if one of their friends can come over after school. You agree, but when your child tells you which friend it is, your stomach tightens up.

As happy as you are to see your kid making friendships and enjoying time with their peers, you never really hit it off with this child's parent. The conversations on play dates always seem to turn to topics you don't enjoy and there were hints that the two of you do not see eye to eye on many aspects of life and parenting.

While you may wish it weren't the case, you won't automatically like all of your kid's friend's parents. Sometimes personalities clash or you have conflicting parenting philosophies. It's OK if you don't want to be friends with the parents, but in many cases, it's worth it to keep the peace for your kids. Other times, it may be best to listen to your gut and try to keep some distance.

Let's take a look at why you might not like your child's friend's parents and what you can do about it.

Do You Have to Be Friends With Your Child's Friends Parents?

You are not required to be friends with anyone, even your kid's friend's parents. As much as you might like to live out the idyllic fantasy of having a group of close parent-friends whose kids grow up together, that might not be your reality—at least not with every one of your child's friend's parents.

"[Not being friends with your child's friend's parents] may make navigating play dates more difficult, and you should be polite and cordial to them, but befriending them is not a necessity," says Gayle Weill, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice who specializes in child-parent psychotherapy.

Determine Your Reasons for Not Liking the Parents

Sometimes, we just clash with other parents, but other times there may be a reason that we aren't getting a good feeling around them. Figuring out why you aren't a fan of the parent(s) can help you decide how to handle the relationship.

Ultimately, parents need to trust their gut. If you suspect something fishy or are uneasy with your kid being around another kid's parents, it's OK to listen to your instincts.

Here are a few common reasons that parents don't always get along.

Different Interests

If the other parent always wants to talk about movies and you aren't much of a film buff, or if they love to discuss home decor and you are more of the outdoorsy type, it's understandable that you won't always enjoy conversations with them.

In the case of different interests, it may be best to remain cordial and make an effort. "Know your deal breakers and anything outside of that, grin it and bear it," says Laura Doyle, a relationship coach and New York Times best-selling author of "Things will Get as Good as You Can Stand."

Opposing Parenting Philosophies

Maybe you lean towards gentle parenting and your child's friend's parents use a more disciplinary approach. Or maybe you are the more structured one, and you feel the other parent's style is too relaxed.

Differences in parenting styles are common, and it may be best to try and look past them with a "live and let live" approach. But, if you aren't comfortable around them or having your child around them—such as if the other parent uses spankings in front of your child—you can set boundaries or distance yourself.

Political Differences

It can be challenging to put on a happy face if you find out that you and the other parent disagree politically. However, try to keep the focus on the value of your child's friendship. It is usually best to change the subject if politics come up.

You may also want to be upfront and tell the other parent that you don't agree but you want to avoid the discussion. "Open communication is really important and by modeling this in front of your children, the parents will be setting a good example for empathy, compassion, and tolerance of other viewpoints," notes Doyle.

Tips for Managing the Relationship

Many times, the reason for not liking your child's friend's parents is something you can put aside in order to prioritize your child's friendship. "You don’t have to be friends with [the parent], but because this is your child’s friend’s parents and your child is likely going to be spending time with them, you do have to be polite to them regardless of your feelings about them," notes Weill.

There are a few things you can do to make it easier.

Avoid Controversial Topics

No matter how passionate you are about your political, religious, or philosophical beliefs, the fact remains that you are not likely to change the other parent's mind. These types of topics tend to elicit heated arguments that can turn ugly quickly.

Completely avoiding highly controversial topics is a good rule of thumb at play dates. "Certain topics are safe to discuss with anyone and don't cause upsets or misunderstandings," says Doyle. "Stick to subject matters that naturally create agreement and don't bring up controversial themes."

Don't Badmouth the Other Parent

It is generally best not to let your child know if you don't like their friend's parents. Avoid badmouthing or making comments about how you feel about the parent to your child. "This can make your child uncomfortable and can create negative feelings if the gossip gets back to the parents," says Weill.

If your child is older, they may catch on to the fact that you have some major disagreements with the other parent. If this happens, always maintain respect for the other parent. You might say something like "Yes, we disagree about some topics, but we will still speak kindly to one another."

Get Together as a Group

Getting together with a group of kids and parents may take the pressure off if you don't hit it off with one of them. Group play dates may be a good way to avoid awkward silences or overly-forced conversation. "Having more parents to socialize with creates a kind of buffer zone," notes Doyle.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt

Don't jump to conclusions based on first impressions. You might end up getting along well with a parent you did not like initially. "Try to view them positively even if you don’t want to invite them over for movie night," says Weill. "Thinking of them positively will influence how you act around them and keep the relationship from being strained."

Set Boundaries

Sometimes other parents may say or do things that we are not comfortable with or do not want our children exposed to. While it is always most important to listen to your instincts, sometimes setting firm boundaries can help you maintain contact without compromising your values.

For example, you may tell another parent that you are happy to continue getting together with them and their child as long as they refrain from using foul language in front of the kids. Or, you may tell them that you are a screen-free family and that you'd like play dates to stay in line with these values.

A Word From Verywell

You won't automatically get along with all of your kid's friend's parents, and that's OK. If you don't like one of their friend's parents, try to figure out why. If it's something you can put aside for the sake of your child's friendships, try your best to do so. But if your gut tells you that something is wrong, always listen and limit the friendship if necessary.

If you want to try and have peaceful interactions with other parents that you don't like, avoid controversial topics when possible. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt and always be kind. Never badmouth the other parent, especially not to your kids. You don't have to be best friends with all the other parents, but when possible, work towards peaceful interactions.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.