Sleepovers are a treat for kids, but can they be a real headache for parents. Whether you’re wondering about allowing sleepovers at all, or just questioning whether you child is old enough, you’re not alone.
In this three-part blog series, I’ll explore the pitfalls and pleasures of letting your child (or children) sleep at someone else’s house. Parents have different philosophies about sleepovers, but having a standard plan and some ground rules will help you know how to react in each situation. In this blog installment, we’ll explore whether you, as a parent, feel that sleepovers are right for your family.
Should We Allow Sleepovers At All?
In this age of 24-hour media coverage, we’re hyper-aware of the potential dangers our children face. It’s always possible that a child could face situations at a sleepover that they won’t face at home. From sexual molestation, to exposure to family violence, to food allergies, to TV choices, there are a million things for a parent to fear – no matter how well you may know the family.
Still, sleepovers are an integral part of growing up in American culture. They give a child the chance to spread her wings, away from her protective parents, for short times. They can be “practice” for summer camp or special vacations without the parents. Ideally, sleepovers are a chance for self-discovery and social development in a safe environment.
Making the Choice
The best way to put your mind at ease (or to transition a young child into having sleepovers) is to have a sleepover in your own home, where you are in control. If you’re considering letting your child sleep over somewhere else, it’s important to have a conversation with the parents before the party.
In the end, the choice has to be up to you as a parent. There are variables in sleepovers, either in your home or another, that you won’t be able to control. It will take a little bit of soul searching, and conversation with your significant other if you have one, to decide what’s right for you.
Do It As a Family.
No matter what your decision, talk to your child in-depth about the result. If you’ve decided not to allow sleepovers, tell them why (in age-appropriate terms, of course). Explain your concerns about sleepover situations, and make them part of the decision.
If you choose to allow sleepovers, let your child know what you expect – from them, and from the host as well. Let them know that they can come to you if someone at the host house acts inappropriately. Make sure they know that they can say ‘no’ to anything the kids at the sleepover decide to do if it makes them uncomfortable. Be an involved parent, and your children will understand both your decision and what you expect from them.