The party invitation has just arrived in the mail and on it is that magic phrase: dropoff. You'd love the free time, but is your child ready to tackle a party solo? Before you drop and dash, consider these key questions:
What's your child's temperament?
Does she separate easily or cry when you leave? If your child's the clingy type, "expect that you may need to stay for a while or even for the whole party," says Ellen Schumann, a Weston, WI, pediatrician. Ditto if you think your child might run amok. Mom Jennifer Nichols of Easton, CT, says her 9-year-old daughter was ready to go it alone at age 4. But Nichols opts to stay at parties with her 6-year-old son, who is more active. "I'm afraid he's not going to listen," she says. "If I'm there, at least I can rein him in." Consider venue, too. Your child might be docile in a movie theater but need your watchful eye at a wound-up game of laser tag or a pool party. If you plan to stay, tell the hostess ahead of time -- and offer to pay your way, if necessary.
Do your know the parents?
If not, when you RSVP, "ask if there is anybody else coming that you know," suggests Schumann. Then you can tactfully ask those other parents about the hostess. You can also offer to stay and help out.
Is it safe?
Get the scoop on how many children are attending, how many adults will be there, and the activities planned, says Schumann. Look for signs she's considered all the details. Accidents happen, but well-laid plans reduce the risk.