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Wrapping Up the Fun

Five-year-old Brett Kreyer of Ashburn, VA, loves a good playdate. It's the leaving he could do without. "Our departures usually involve kicking, screaming, and tears," says his mom, Diane. To keep a sweet get-together from ending on a sour note:

Explain your expectations. Tell your child before the playdate that you expect cooperation when it's time to go. Give specifics: "When I tell you to put on your shoes, it means we're leaving."

Give notice. As the playdate comes to an end, issue a five-minute warning. This lets the kids wrap things up and gets them thinking about leaving. Reinforce this by talking about the fun things they'll be able to do together next time. Turn leaving into a game. When the five minutes is almost over, lead a countdown to the end of the visit, or race to see who can get to the door the quickest.

Reward a good goodbye... When parting goes off without a meltdown, praise your child -- and let her know that her cooperation has guaranteed another playdate very soon.