“Should I let my child go on a sleepover?”
I get asked this a lot. And frankly, it depends. We’ve all heard the gossip of the disasters in the school playground.
I know some parents who simply make it their policy — “No sleepovers ever” or ‘No sleepovers until you’re ___________. (put in the age you feel appropriate for your children.)
Whatever you decide that’s ok because it’s your right to make the rules that you are comfortable with for YOUR family.
If you decide that you are going to allow an occasional sleepover, do your “due-diligence” first.
Sleepovers can be fun, but they can also be a slippery slope in some instances.
Pause to Ponder
Does your child want to sleepover or is it just peer pressure? If there’s a hesitation or reluctance, make sure you talk to your child about it first, away from their friends or other parents. Allow your child to speak honestly about how they feel. Make it easy for them to blame you if they don’t fancy it.
Same Values – Different Rules?
Some parents have VERY different rules about what is allowed, (games, tv shows, computer use, films with 18 rating!)
Who else is going to be sleeping there? because if you have an gut feeling of anxiety or an “uh oh” feeling”about anyone (an adult or another child) say “no.”
(Check out https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ that provides independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media for parents.)
If you’re not comfortable, just smile and tell the other parent “It’s nothing personal, I’m just not comfortable with Amy on a sleepover at her age so right now, I’m saying “no” to sleepovers at the moment.”
Be your child’s parent not their friend and speak up and protect them – despite their demonstrations and anger or frustration. Explain calmly your rules and absorb their disappointment. Perhaps you could have the sleepover at yours instead.
This is all about YOUR comfort level. Just check in though that you’re not being over protective. It’s about finding a balance about letting your kids grow up while keeping them safe.
It’s your job as a parent to evaluate each situation specifically to make sure it really is a safe place for your child. The more you know about the host family, the better equipped you will be to make a decision. Before agreeing to any sleepover, check out some of the questions below.
Good Questions to Ask:
One key question to ask yourself is:
Would my child be able to say “no or stop” when things get uncomfortable, out of control, dangerous or weird?
Whose home will the sleepover be at?
How long have you known the host family?
Do you know everyone who is living there or staying there at the moment and how do you feel about them?
Has anyone there ever made you feel uncomfortable?
Is their home a chaotic, stressful or otherwise an unhealthy environment?
Do the parents hold similar values to you around alcohol, drugs, X rated films and pornography?
Have you spent time in their home previously?
Do you have similar values as parents?
Who’s supervising… parents, nanny, teenage babysitter?
Will the host parents be there all evening?
How many other children may be spending the night there as well? One or twenty-one?
Are the children sleeping in beds, sleeping bags, sharing air mattresses or outside in tents?
Can you communicate your questions comfortably with the other parents without them making you feel guilty for asking, or do they trivialise your concerns or questions?
Does your child know they can call you anytime, even in the middle of the night, to come & pick them up if they need you and you won’t get cross?
Does your child have a mobile phone or will they have to ask the host to use their home phone?
Can your child do that for themselves?
Is your child going to have a bath there? Can you skip the bath until tomorrow when they get home to limit their vulnerability?
What activities are planned? Are the adults also having a party or get-together with their friends that night?
Will there be a lot of other adults there, possibly drinking alcohol, while the kids are around?
Have you discussed “thumbs up/thumbs down touches” with your child and given them some scripted responses to help them get out of any unsuitable situations?
How ready is your child for this kind of independence?
What about medication? If your child takes any regular medication, make sure that you tell the host’s parents. If it’s a medication that wears off towards the end of the evening, make sure they are aware of that.
If your child is a sleepwalker, let the host’s parents know that and perhaps consider dropping off a bell for them to tie around the front door, just in case.
Is your child a bedwetter? For children who still have sporadic cases of bedwetting, there are medications that can be used for one off circumstances such as sleepovers. Consult your GP first, or discreetly have a word with the host family – to handle this sensitively.
Some children may be bullied at sleepovers, though there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it, take an extra few minutes to chat with your child when they get back home from the sleepover. Ask them open ended questions about the night before (especially if they seem upset, withdrawn or unwilling to talk about it) to make sure that doesn’t happen again & they feel supported, heard and listened to.
Head lice. For the next day or two following a sleepover, take an extra close look at your child’s head for nits!
The Bottom Line.
Sleepovers aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, they can be enormous fun.
Children like being part of another family for a night, it can be fun to wake up with your best friend and run downstairs for breakfast together.
But use good judgment.
It’s YOUR family and YOU get to decide where, when & who your child stays with.
Take these precautions, empower your child with what to do if things get out of hand & relax.