Do you allow your child to have sleepovers or go to a sleepover at a friend’s house? Why is it that every play-date my school aged daughter has seems to end with the same question, can we have a sleepover, and it’s usually asked, no, begged for, in unison? I take it as a sign of a successful play-date and most of the time the answer to their question is “yes let’s check our schedule and see if we can make it work.” But, what about when the request for play-dates or sleepovers is with a child you don’t know, let alone know their parents?
This might sound hypocritical, but we’ve been hosting sleepovers since our daughter was three years old – helping out friends who worked graveyard shifts at local hospitals. It wasn’t until our daughter was eight years old that we started allowing her to sleepover at a friend’s house, but only if we have a good relationship with the other child’s parents, meaning that we have similar rules and boundaries, we’ve had coffee or cocktails together, and I’ve been in their home. My daughter has known most of her girlfriends since preschool, so it hasn’t been a huge issue until now.
We live in a community where most of the kids ride the bus to and from school, so meeting other parents is challenging. And, unless you have the opportunity to volunteer in your child’s classroom, getting to know their classmates (i.e who are the troublemakers, who is respectful, who is friendly, etc) is nearly impossible. So, I become the “mean mom” when she begs for play-dates or sleepovers at someone else’s home. I am a self-proclaimed helicopter parent, which I am working to ease off the throttle, and according to my brother a fear mongerer, which I attribute to my years working in tv news, but allowing my child to go to a stranger’s home seems to me, to be a bit negligent on my part.
The Sleepover Dilemma
It’s not that I dread getting the midnight call to come pick her up. Rather, it’s the fear of something horrible happening to her. I’ve heard stories of people who were victims of abuse, whether physical or verbal, while at a sleepover when they were younger. I’m even guilty of pushing the fear on others as a news producer. Statistically, I know it’s unlikely that anything bad like that would happen. Still it’s always on my mind.
Am I a worst-first thinker as Free Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy so kindly refers to parents like me, or am I just being smart by requiring that I know the parents and siblings who live in the house before I let my daughter go for play-dates or sleepovers?
Pattie Fitzgerald is the founder of Safely Ever After, which teaches child predator safety awareness to kids. She says parents should use common sense and ask the right questions before allowing sleepovers.
12 Questions to help parents with the sleepover dilemma:
- Do you know everyone who lives or is staying at the home ?
- Is this a chaotic, stressful household with minimal supervision?
- Do the parents have similar values as you?
- Do they make you feel guilty or silly for asking questions or being concerned?
- Does anyone in the household have a substance abuse problem?
- Has anyone there, including another child, ever given you an “UH-OH FEELING” FOR ANY REASON?
- Does anyone in the household (including adults & children) seem overly sexualized or “off” in some way?
- Who is supervising… parents or nanny/babysitter and her boyfriend?
- Who else is sleeping there? Other kids, adults, older siblings’ friends?
- Is your child mature enough to speak up for themselves when they feel uncomfortable or uneasy?
- Does your child know they can call you at any time and you’ll pick them up?
- Have you had a clear conversation about “thumbs up and thumbs down touches” with your child?
Allowing your child to have sleepovers or go to a sleepover is a personal decision and I’m not one to judge. Here are a few things I try to remind myself when I’m not being a mean mommy and allow our daughter to have the sleepover.
5 reasons why allowing your child have sleepovers is healthy:
- It gives them independence and allows them to practice making good choices. (Hopefully, we’ve done a good job teaching her right from wrong and what’s appropriate and what is not.)
- It allows them to practice being on their best behavior. (Who doesn’t love hearing that their child was courteous and followed all the rules.)
- It allows them to try new and different things – foods, activities or toys.
- It forces parents, (my husband kindly refers to me as the hall monitor) to give up some control.
- They will have FUN!