My son has a very hard time when his friends or other kids come over to our house. At age two (almost three), he simply cannot handle someone else using his toys. And since that’s what kids want to do when they come to our house, he spends most of the play date melting down. It’s frustrating, headache-inducing, and heartbreaking to watch my son struggle.
Honestly, if I didn’t occasionally need to swap babysitting with friends, I would avoid the situation of having his friends over at this point in Buki’s life. But it just isn’t always possible. Yesterday we had a little friend over for a couple of hours so that her parents could take care of some important errands. It was a nightmare.
From the moment his friend arrived, he started crying and melting down at just about every toy she picked up to play with. He would run over to her and yell in her face, and when she reacted in any way (or even if she didn’t), he would burst into tears. “I’m crying!” And he would scream and cry until I intervened. I took him aside, hugged him close, and talked him through it until he stopped crying.
Then I’d let him down off my lap and the cycle would repeat itself over and over. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I’m crying!”, or had to pull Buki off the girl or stop him from scratching her. It was hideous. I gave up and turned the TV on for him in one room while she played by herself in another. I felt like a parenting failure. By the time it was over I needed an Advil and never wanted to invite a friend over again.
Buki felt differently, of course. By the end of the two-hour play date, he was jumping around and laughing with his friend, as if he hadn’t tried to head butt her or claw her a few minutes earlier. Why can’t he start the play date as happy as he ends it?
I figure that his difficulty with transitions probably comes into play here. It’s hard for him at first because it’s so different from his norm. Someone is suddenly in his space, using his stuff. It’s not ok! So he melts down. But after a couple of hours has gone by, he’s used to the friend being there and has more of a handle on his emotions as a result.
I don’t know how to make things easier for him. I talked to him about the friend coming over, and I helped him practice a couple of things he could say if she had a toy that he wanted. But that didn’t work. I told him to say, “You’re playing with my toy now, and then it’s my turn.” He caught right on to the “my turn” part, but that’s it.
Have you had play date problems? How do you handle it?