Like many of you, I grew up in a world that seemed safer for kids. We hosted and attended sleepovers often... whispered with our girlfriends past our bedtime, and played silly pranks on the first one to fall asleep. Have times changed so much that the ritual of a sleepover is too risky?
A recent RoundUp article about the dangers of sleepovers, even among kids of the same gender and age group, shows that some moms just don't do sleepovers any more, period. (See: Why We Don't Do Sleepovers) On the other side of this argument are a number of parents in the Circle of Moms communities who say yes to sleepovers and see them as an essential part of growing up and socializing. Here's why, plus a rundown of the rules and methods they use to keep slumber parties safe.
Putting the Risks in Perspective
Some parents feel that you can never really know what goes on under another family's roof overnight. Other moms, such as Jodi Z., find this perspective to be needlessly overprotective. Referring to news reports about sexual abuse at sleepovers, she says, "I think banning sleepovers altogether is just ridiculous. The chances of something like this happening are so slim it's pathetic to dwell on it *that* much IMO ... it makes the news because "bad" news sells and because these things are so bizarre and incredibly rare, they make a sensational story to tell...not because they're happening every weekend across America (or any other country)."
She goes on to recommend finding a way to put aside your anxieties so that you don't deprive your child of such an important social experience: "Banning sleepovers altogether is one end of the balance scale. Allowing every sleepover they are ever invited to is on the other. There is a middle ground... are you really going to base your parenting decision on situations that happen one in 10 thousand? Or one in a hundred thousand? Or even one in a million?"
So how do you put aside your fears? Here, moms share the three key safety measures to take in advance.
1. Meet The Parents
Kristi C. feels that the more you know about your child's friends and their parents and siblings, the better: "I do meet the parents first and I expect for their parents to meet me before letting their child spend the night with us... I always tell the other parents about 'my rules' or lack thereof and ask if that is ok with them. Sleepovers are supposed to be fun and memorable. I want my daughter and her friends to 'remember all the awesome sleepovers they used to have' at my house when they look back at their tween-teen years."
To a member named Jackie, knowing the mom is not enough. She makes it her business to know the father as well, or if the mom is single, her boyfriend.
Jodi agrees, but puts puts it even more bluntly: that it is the parent's responsibility to "get off your a** and get to know your child's friends and their parents" in order to make sure your kids get to experience sleepovers. She goes on to explain why sleepovers are so important for kids: "Kids need to see life on the other side occasionally, and I believe seeing life in another person's household can be very good for them. It makes them see, often, that their life, and the expectations of them at home, are not any different to those around them."
2. Establish and Communicate Your Rules
Moms who host or allow their kids to attend sleepovers suggest establishing rules about everything from the kinds of movies it's okay for kids to watch and whether they can eat junk food to more serious matters like drugs, alcohol, and sex. Tracey H. has a few simple rules that have worked well in her house: "...the only rules I have are that all alcohol is locked away so they can't have any, the TV gets turned down but they can watch whatever movies they like, and I have contact numbers for all their parents in case of emergency."
A member named MeMe is okay with junk food and staying up late, but she draws the line at co-ed slumber parties: "there [are] absolutely no cross gender sleep overs in or out of my home. No boys allowed where my daughter sleeps, ever." A member who goes by the name 'Mommy A.' agrees to sleepovers only when she knows the parents and the friend enough to trust that her rules are being followed at their house as well.
Kristi C. makes sure her daughter is respectful not only of her own mom's rules, but also whatever rules apply in the house she is sleeping at: "She minds her manners and follows the rules wherever she goes (she knows other parents might not be as lax as I am and if I hear about her being disrespectful in any way, it's over for quite awhile)."
3. Make Sure Your Child Can Call You
Knowing that your child can and will call you if she feels uncomfortable with any situation can take away a lot of the anxiety of sending your child on a sleepover. Valerie C. makes sure her 11-year-old daughter takes a cell phone to every sleepover, "just in case something happens."
Jackie reiterates this, emphasizing that she would sooner lend her daughter her own cell phone than see her leave for a sleepover party without one. Most important, she says, is that you make sure your child knows that she can come home at any time for any reason; that she can call you "at 8pm or 3am to come get her, doesn't matter."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.