Our 4-year-old asked us the other day if he could have a play date at the home of a new preschool pal. This was a first. Most of the kids our son plays with are kids whose parents we know and hang out with. This new request would send our child to the home of people whom we know nothing about. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that but it does bring up a few critical questions.

The first thing that must happen is my wife and I need to reach out to the child's parents and get to know them. The majority of people we encounter are good, upstanding people who have good intentions and are attentive to the needs of their children. But everyone parents differently.

The fact is there are a bunch of considerations before we accompany our child to the home of a new friend.

Here are some things to thinkĀ about:

Weapons

Does the family keep guns or other weapons in their home? Are they secured properly? It's a challenging topic to bring up in casual conversation with strangers but these are pieces of information that you will want to know before allowing your child to play inside the family's home. Obviously, the last thing you want is your child's friend showing off a dangerous weapon to your child who might have absolutely no knowledge of such things.

Language

We know that our children are going to be exposed to all sorts of language at school, at the park and whenever they encounter new people. That doesn't mean that we should give up our right to learn all we can about who our children are hanging out with and how they're being raised. Does your child's new friend hear cursing or off-color language in their home? The only way to tell is by spending time with the child's parents and discern how they communicate.

Politics/Religion

Each family has their own set of values and beliefs. Many of us keep those values and beliefs tightly held and do not try to indoctrinate anyone else. However, there are some people who try to impart their beliefs onto others. It might be helpful to know if the parents of your child's new friend have beliefs that are radically different from your own. That may help you decide if you want your child to spend time around them.

Food

Does your child's new friend eat loads of sugar and have free reign of the kitchen? It's probably impossible to tell but if you accompany your child to the friend's home you can see what types of food and drink the family offers you and learn what might be in their cabinets.

Television/Web Watching/Video Games

Do the child's parents allow him to watch unlimited television shows? Do they have parental controls on their TV? Do they allow their child to play unfettered with an internet-connected tablet or smartphone? Does the child sit in front of the tv playing video games for hours? If this is anathema to the way you raise your child, then you might have a decision to make about whether the new friend's home is the best place for your child to be.

As mentioned, it's difficult to learn most of this information through a casual discussion. How can you learn more? You have several options. You can ask direct questions of the parents to learn about how they parent and how their child spends his time. You can have a get-together that brings everyone together and you can observe their behavior and parenting techniques. You can also ask around to find if some of your friends have allowed their children to spend time in the new friend's home.

After your child visits his friend's new home, have a conversation with him. Was there anything unusual that his friend or his friend's family said to him? Was there anything that made him feel uncomfortable? You certainly don't want to make your child suspicious but if you ask the questions in a nonchalant way, you may be able to elicit important information.