My Facebook newsfeed was filled with all sorts of discussion on sleepovers earlier this week. With a news story out on a Minnesota man who has been charged with not only molesting a child spending the night at his home with his daughter but also drugging her with Ambien, it's not surprising that as parents we are alarmed, frightened and frankly, pissed off.

What is wrong with people, seems to be the recurring question. A lot, especially in stories like that. 

So opinions are across the board. No, sleepovers, not ever, say some while others are ok within reason and yet others say we all did it, what's the big deal.

 

I have a love/hate with sleepovers. The love part comes from the fact that I have lots of fun memories of sleep overs and slumber parties throughout my elementary and middle school years. Late nights, lots of laughs and just a few practical jokes. The hate part comes from sending my kids to a sleepover and dealing with them the next day. Exhaustion, crabbiness, if it's hosted at our house, my own irritability the next day is a force to be reckoned with.

I'm cautious on the idea of sleepovers and not because I think people are out to get my kids but more so because I like my kids sleeping at home, in their own beds for the most part. Sure, they'll be invited to sleepovers here and there and my 8 year old even went to overnight camp this past summer but I go a little bit more by way of trusting my gut, getting to know situations and people and going from there. One compromise that has worked in our household when our kids were younger and not necessarily keen on the idea of sleeping over at someones house all night was the idea of a "half-sleepover" meaning they would either have their friend over or go to their friends home for part of the evening, long enough for a movie and a snack and then they would go home about 10 p.m.. Late enough that for a kid, it feels like a late night but early enough for parents that it's better than that middle of the night "come pick me up" phone call.

I asked a couple other Twin Cities bloggers to weigh in with their thoughts and take on sleepovers, here's what they had to say:

Missy Berggren of from Marketing Mama writes-

My kids are 6 and 9 years old and they're getting invited to sleepovers more often. We invited a handful of kids to spend the night for my son's birthday, but sending them to friend's houses gives me pause. There seems to be so much risk - guns, violence, molestation. It's tough because we want our kids to have fun and enjoy their childhood, but we also want to keep them safe.
 
My 9 year old son has had only a few sleepovers at friend's houses. They've been with families I've gotten to know over time through school or daycare and felt comfortable with them. 
 
I've continued to have regular conversations with my kids about safety - that not all adults make good decisions and that it's okay to call or text me (through his iPod) at any time if they are uncomfortable or don't feel well. We've talked about how some adults are "tricky" and try to trick kids into doing things that are inappropriate. Sometimes teachers or babysitters or friend's parents or siblings can be tricky, too. It's okay to say NO to tricky people, try to get away from them and tell a parent or other adult ASAP.
 
Just this week one of my children was invited to spend the night at a classmate's home. I have not met the child or the parents. The answer was no. Meeting them or talking to them once wouldn't be good enough. After hearing the scary story this week in the local news, I'm tightening up my sleepover rules even more.

Jamie Heil from Toys in the Dryer writes-

I don't think sleepovers are bad. In fact, I think they are good for both parents and children. Sleepovers allow children to gain confidence away from their parents. They also allow children to see how other families are run, and therefore gain skills to adapt to other people's lifestyles (such as different foods, routines, pets, and sometimes cultures). For parents, sleepovers force giving up some control over their children. This allows the children to become more independent.

A lot can be said about the dangers of sleepovers. You hear about children getting into trouble on the internet, being bullied, or worst-case, being molested. I'm not denying that those things can and do happen at sleepovers. However, the same things can and do happen during regular play-dates in the middle of the day, during sports, and even at school. The key to healthy sleepovers is knowing what will be going on during it. Who are the children staying over? Will there be older siblings there? Who is supervising and how much supervision will there actually be? Ask what will and will not be allowed (such as internet time, older siblings allowed to play with the group, and bed time). Never be shy about asking too many questions and trust your gut if something doesn't feel right. Lastly, keep the lines of communication open with your children. Talk with them about possible dangers they may face, and how to deal with them. Instill in them that no matter what happens, they can call you anytime during the sleepover. They can also talk to you after the sleepover if they were not comfortable with something.

Sleepovers can be beneficial to both children and parents if done with boundaries and open communication. The confidence, independence, and memories made in children during sleepovers can not be replaced by daytime play-dates.  

Tracy Morrison from Sellabit Mum writes-

So here's the thing - I know that THAT happening at sleepovers is probably not something that happens very often. And I know that statistics show that kids are more likely to be molested by a close family member or friend, than by a stranger. And I know that I cannot protect my kids from all the bad that happens in the world - yet here we are making decisions daily about how free range our kids can be - from walking alone, to biking alone, to staying alone, to now having friends that maybe we just don't know that well. And you know, pretty soon as the teen years come - there's probably going to be a WHOLE lot of my kids lives that I might not be privy to - with whom they hang-out with, where they go every time they leave the house, or what really happens at sleepovers.(Dear God, don't ever find out what I did at sleepovers, my dear children...).
 
But you know what - while I STILL can set some rules and boundaries and give advice and frame-up to my kids WHY I'm maybe not so comfortable with my daughter sleeping at a friend's house when I don't know the family - well I am going to do just that, and this time I'm pulling out my Mom Trump Card and playing that sucker hard.
 
And I am pro-sleepover. Heck - I am pro-sleepaway camp! Sleepovers are great fun! And my kids have been to dozens and have had good friends stay at our home. But you know what - I know their families well. Like we have had coffee together or cocktails together or gone out to dinner as a family and I've been to their homes. These are people I text with and talk with often. Does that "protect" my child from something bad that could happen at a sleepover - sure, no, but at least we are providing the best framework and safety net that we can in any situation as our little kids become big kids and then teens, and they need to know what some comfortable boundaries are.
 
I'm not looking to cover my kids in bubble wrap or not let them have a fair bit of well deserved independence so that they too learn to make good choices. And I don't want them to focus on all the bad things that could happen or question everyone's integrity. I want my kids to know people, to trust people. to know that there are so many beautiful and good things in the world, and I want them to be brilliant and independent and giving and contributing people. But right now, #sorrynotsorry - they're not going to spend the night with a friend that I don't know.
 
So what will I do - I'll pick up the phone or send an email and introduce myself to this friend's mother. I'll invite her to coffee. I'll have the friend over to hang-out and maybe for dinner. {excerpt}
 

What do you think about sleepovers? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Allow 'em? Any rules of thumb that work in your household?

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