Crosstown Friends

February 12th, 2013 posted by June Solnit Sale, Kit Kollenberg, and Ellen Melinkoff

By June Solnit Sale, Kit Kollenberg, and Ellen Melinkoff


Many parents would attest to a new variation on Murphy’s Law: Your child will bond with the classmate who lives farthest away, not the child down the street. And these days, those classmates can live far away. It may be a generality, but it seems like not too long ago that children went to neighborhood schools. Today many more children are in schools that are miles away from the neighborhood. Magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, church and temple schools, permits to crosstown schools—these situations all expand a child’s world, but may add stress to a parent’s busy schedule. Nowadays, when parents have such little time, children are making friends, best friends, with schoolmates who don’t live down the street, but a half-hour, even an hour or more, drive or bus or subway ride away. And adding to the situation, many schools have cut down on the free time/play time children have during the school day, making it more difficult to nurture friendships on campus.

Bridging the Distances

If your child is in a non-neighborhood school, she is probably turning to you for help in arranging get-togethers with her friends. How do you help your child see her friend without using all your spare time (hah!) driving her back and forth? Here are some strategies: Explore possibilities of the friends going home from school together. Some schools have procedures in place that allow a child to ride on another child’s bus if parents do the paperwork in advance. Nothing spontaneous is allowed, but with some planning, this may be your solution. If your school doesn’t allow this, maybe it’s time to talk with staff about making changes that help students and their working parents. After-school programs don’t allow friends to drop in, but if there is an at-home caregiver or someone else who picks up your child or the other child, maybe there can be some flexibility in the arrangement. Then perhaps you can pick up your child, or have the friend picked up, after dinner (read: after rush hour). Children with cross-town friends often start sleepovers at a younger age because it makes life easier for parents. To be comfortable with your child being away from home, take the time to talk with the other family, get a sense of what family life is like in their home and, if possible, visit their home. When you pick your child up, take the time to go inside and chat with the parents. And remember that what starts out as a sleepover can turn into a middle-of-the-night pick-up—no matter what your child’s age.

Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy

Needing rides to and from friends’ homes can be a contentious area for children and parents, especially working parents who are being asked to make a long trip after the workday and commute. Parents need to realize that they don’t have to agree to every request. Explain to your child that sometimes you will be willing to drive him or accompany him on the bus, but sometimes, you’re too tired or have other things to do. You cannot satisfy every request. You cannot be a chauffeur or escort on top of everything else you do. You and your child will need to compromise. One compromise may be with the friend’s parents: you drive one way, they drive the other. Or you might have a meeting point halfway between your homes. What about an alternative driver? Can you hire someone to do the driving for you? A friend? In some areas there are transportation services that specialize in driving children to and from after-school care, sports, and friends’ homes. Friends are important to children. Acknowledge that to your child and work together on the details.

June Solnit Sale, Kit Kollenberg, and Ellen Melinkoff (1 Posts)

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Cindy Rowe
Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

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