To Sleepover or Not to Sleepover?
Aya Fubara Eneli, M.A., J.D.
If you are a parent of children under the age of 18 years, you can expect variations of this question to be posed to you over and over again, “I’ve been invited to a sleepover, can I go?”
My children have been invited to a slew of sleepovers – all girls’ sleepovers, church lock-ins, all boys’ sleepovers and even co-ed sleepovers. Should parents allow their children to sleepover in other people’s homes? I wish I could give you a flat, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t specifically mention sleepovers. It does however inform us that the company we keep makes all the difference and that bad company corrupts.
Based on that and my years in Law School and the State Attorney’s Office, here is what we do in my family:
1.) As a general rule, we don’t allow my children to go for sleepovers that include more than just the child hosting the sleepover. The chances that I will know every child attending and their family background is slim and I am still responsible for what I knowingly expose my child to.
2.) If it is just a sleepover with my child and the child hosting the party, I will still say ‘No’ unless I have spent time in the child’s home and feel comfortable with everyone living in the home. We have an increasing number of children being molested by other minors. I want to know who else is in the home? What level of supervision will there be? Where will my child sleep? What are the values (as far as I can discern) about this family? If I don’t have the answers I need to feel comfortable with my child’s safety, my child doesn’t get to go.
3.) I rarely ever allow group sleepovers whether in a home, at a gym or even a church. Too many variables. I will make an exception if I know and approve of the families of every kid who will be attending. When my children are invited to such events, if possible, I will let them attend the evening portion and pick them up no later than 11 p.m. That is more than enough time to have fun and then they can come back and sleep in their own home.
4.) Before my child goes to any sleepover even with someone I trust, we go over some basic information. They need to know how to get a hold of me or their dad no matter what time of the day or night it is. I want them to know their safety is my top priority. They need to know about personal boundaries and to call the second they ‘feel’ uncomfortable. They do not need to have group showers with anyone. They need to know some basic self-defence techniques. They need to know that no one should have them keep a ‘secret’ from their parents. They need to know how much their parents love and cherish them.
5.) If my child is attending a sleepover, I talk with the parents and emphasize what I allow with my children. No ‘R’ rated movies. They can check-in with me on the PG-13 movies. No songs with dirty lyrics. No “shoot em up” video games or games with nudity and violence. No Red Bull, Monster or energy drinks. No co-ed sleeping arrangements with other siblings in the home.
6.) I don’t permit sleepovers for any child who is not capable of giving themselves their own shower and getting dressed unassisted.
7.) Consider allergies, bedwetters, or any other special needs, etc. Is the hosting parent willing to do what it takes to make this a pleasant experience for your child?
8.) I pray over and for my children whenever they leave my presence.
As you may imagine, my guidelines rarely amount to an affirmative response when my children ask to go to sleepovers. Here is how I counteract my children feelings that they are being oppressed.
1.) They are welcome to have sleepovers at my house, but no more than 4 children of the same gender whom I already know and feel comfortable with them interacting with my other children as well. I don’t do bullies, mouthy children, filthy children or whiners and kids who can’t take baths and get dressed with minimal assistance from me.
2.) I ask them what they think matters the most to me, “Them or my car?” They always look at me with a ‘duh’ expression and indignantly point out at that they are far more valuable than a car and irreplaceable at that! To which I typically respond, ‘So, if a family whose child happens to be in your class rings our doorbell and asks to take my car for the night, should I just hand over the keys?’ Their answer is always, “Of course not. You don’t even know them that well.” “Well,” I respond, “If I don’t know them well enough to lend them my car, why would I send you to their home for an overnight stay?” They sulk, but they get my point.
Our children are the greatest gifts we will ever receive. Although I know I can never protect them from all the ills of society, I would much rather err on the side of caution than give in to parental peer pressure to have them do what ‘everyone’ else does.
Let love and wisdom guide your decision.
Join Aya for Life Management & Financial Wellness Workshop on November 2, 2013. Aya Fubara Eneli is a best-selling author, Christian Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Attorney. Her life’s purpose is to empower and equip people to live up to their highest potential. For more information, visit www.ayaeneli.com, follow her on twitter @ayaeneli or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. get more inspiration and great success strategies at www.xtraordinaryyou.com.