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A Tween-Friendly Home

Having your child and his friends over at your house all the time may not sound appealing if you don't want stains on your couch or scuff marks on the floor. But think about it  -- he gets to have fun, and you get to see what he's up to. To make your home more inviting to the kids:

Stock the kitchen with healthy but tempting snacks like low-fat popcorn, string cheese, and baked tortilla chips.

Provide the entertainment. To keep them from zonking out in front of the TV or computer, have some other options handy. A basketball hoop or Frisbee will get kids on their feet; it's also good to leave some board games, cards, and arts and crafts stuff lying around.

Give them some breathing room. Tweens, of course, don't need constant supervision. But poke your head in from time to time. "The key is guided privacy," says Erin Brown Conroy, M.A., author of 20 Secrets to Success with Your Child. A quick peek every half hour is fine. (Unless, that is, they're on the Internet, in which case you should keep constant watch.) And if things get too quiet, you'd better go investigate.

Don't be too cool. It's fine to want your kids' friends to like you, but remember: You're the parent.

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