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What’s fun about a sleepover?
I posed this question to my daughter. She said, “You get to do fun things with your friends.
You can eat popcorn. We eat like a lot of popcorn.
Sometimes we just fill our faces with powdered sugar.” What could possibly be wrong with that?
Should Parents Allow Sleepovers?
A sleepover is often a great idea. As long as your child is comfortable, parents should allow kids to have a sleepover.
A sleepover is a time-honored tradition that most kids greatly enjoy.
Staying with a friend for the evening, or having a friend stay with your child, gives them a chance to truly communicate and get to know one another.
Should You Just Say No to Sleepovers?
I had strange parents. They were overprotective to a fault until I was about 14.
At that time, they decided they would no longer dictate what I did as long as I didn’t bother them.
It was a confusing way to grow up.
One of their rules when I was young was that I was not allowed to go to sleepovers. I could go to the party, but the actual sleeping wasn’t allowed.
My parents refused to explain why despite repeated asking and begging. The sleepover rule was reversed as I aged.
Again, with no explanation.
If this is your choice if you do decide not to allow your children to attend sleepovers, give them a reason.
Some parents worry that kids won’t be safe at a friend’s house.
They might fret that the child is not going to behave. It may be something as simple as a fear that your child won’t sleep as well or will have nightmares.
Even if you don’t think your child will understand your reasoning, they deserve to know.
Sending Your Child to a Sleepover
Not every child matures at the same rate.
Some may be ready for sleepovers by kindergarten. Others may not feel comfortable at a sleepover until they are teens.
My two kids are great examples of this. My son has never really warmed up to sleepovers.
He has stayed the night with a few friends over the years, but he has found that he doesn’t enjoy late-night games of laser tag, tormenting his friend’s younger sisters, or sneaking to the fridge for contraband snacks.
His favorite nighttime activity is sleeping, which he doesn’t do well at friends’ houses.
Now as an older teen, he usually opts to spend the evening with his friends, and then come home before everyone else turns in.
My daughter is the polar opposite. She slept over at a friend’s house at age nine and has not look back.
When your child tells you that they want to go to a sleepover, you have some questions to ask:
- Is your child mature enough to have a sleepover?
- How well do you know the parents of your child’s friends?
- How well do you know your child’s friend?
- What activities will be taking place?
- Do you have open communication with your child?
Those questions will help you decide if a sleepover is the right choice for your family or not.
What About Abuse at Sleepovers?
The following section contains talk about sexual abuse. Please skip to the next section if this is a subject that causes you significant trauma.
The biggest fear among parents is that a child will be sexually abused while they are at a sleepover.
It is entirely possible that the parent, sibling or even friend of your child could be a perpetrator.
This fear of sexual abuse may be enough to keep you from allowing your child to sleep away from home.
About eight years ago, when I was on the eve of turning 40, I asked my mom again why I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepovers as a child.
My dad had passed several years earlier so she finally decided to tell me.
He worried that I would be molested when I was too young to defend myself.
I then reminded her that two of my dad’s friends touched me inappropriately while we they were in our home.
I told my parents and they didn’t believe me even after one of them was arrested for molesting his own daughters.
My point is not that you should ignore your feelings of worry and dread but that you should also not tell yourself that keeping your child away from sleepovers removes all threats of abuse.
A parent must stay vigilant at all times.
Hosting vs. Not-Hosting: Does it Change Your Thoughts On Sleepovers?
Whether or not to host a sleepover is a slightly different matter than whether you should allow your children to sleep at someone else’s home.
The deal my own parents made with me was that sleepovers elsewhere weren’t allowed, but sleepovers in my home could happen at any time.
Many parents love hosting sleepovers. They like the sounds of giggling children.
They love knowing that their kids are safe while still having a great time.
They also like having control over what their kids are eating, what games they play, and what movies they watch.
Other parents don’t want the hassle of a sleepover. That is valid as well.
I argue that most parents are fine with sleepovers but don’t relish them.
The first sleepover might be unsettling, but subsequent ones are pretty easy as long as your child and their friend get along well.
Are Some Sleepovers Better Than Others? Cousins? Grandparents?
A sleepover at a friend’s house might cause you to fret. Would you feel the same worry about sleepovers with a relative?
Grandparents are often more than willing to let their grandkids sleepover.
Aunts, uncles, and cousins may also be willing to let your little ones spend the night.
They could get a taste of a sleepover without some of the dangers that worry you.
Many churches and even some schools offer lock-ins that include group sleepovers.
They are usually closely supervised and filled with activities that are geared to keep kids entertained while they spend the evening together.
An event like this might be a good alternative for you if you are not comfortable with a private sleepover.
What Are Some Sleepover Alternatives?
Before my children were old enough to have a sleepover, I hosted sleepunders. Kids would come to the house clad in pajamas and carrying sleeping bags.
They would play games and eat junk food while their sleeping bags populated our living room floor.
Parents would then pick up the kids when it was time for bed.
They didn’t sleep at our house, but they still experienced almost everything they would at a typical sleepover.
During quarantine, my family discovered the joy of a Zoom sleepover.
The kids set up their tablets and behaved as though they were gathered together.
They even watched movies together.
For my daughter’s birthday, we even delivered care packages to each child in advance, which they opened when the Zoom party began.
They were able to do the same crafts, eat the same snacks and play the same games while they were separated.
Though quarantine is but a memory now, both of my kids regularly have late-night Zoom sessions with their friends rather than having sleepovers.
Campouts can be another fun alternative to sleepovers. These are slightly different because they usually involve the entire family.
Getting two or three families together to sleep in tents or cabins can be a fun and freeing event for all.
If your child wants to attend a sleepover it may be time to let them try it out.
Do your due diligence to ensure the space is safe and let them have some fun. Do you agree or disagree? Tell us in the comments!