By Denise Mann

There are good play dates, so-so play dates, and then there are meltdown, can’t-get-out-of-there-soon-enough play dates.

Preschoolers may do battle over a toy, engage in name-calling, refuse to acknowledge one another, or even push, bite, or hit their playmate. Older kids may tease, taunt, or torment each other and/or get into trouble — or even into dangerous situations.

Of course, your child’s health, safety, and well-being — physical and emotional — come first. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to look out for that.

“You have to protect your kid and you don’t want to put your kid in a situation where he or she is uncomfortable,” says child psychoanalyst Leon Hoffman, MD. “If your kid doesn’t want to play with another child, you have to take that very seriously,” says Hoffman, who co-directs the New York Psychoanalytic Society’s Pacella Parent Child Center.

But how do you know if you’re reading the situation correctly? When should you express your concerns to the other child’s parent? And how can you do it diplomatically?

The next few posts provides expert advice.