Sleepovers. Many parents ask, “Should we, or shouldn’t we allow them?” When considering risks and statistics, it is tempting to want to ban sleepovers altogether. Our Information & Prevention pages are intended to encourage parents and caregivers to consider risks before making a decision that may negatively impact your child. Sometimes it simply takes preparation and vigilance to change a risky situation to a fairly normal one.
So, when your child asks to go to a sleepover, here are eight questions posed by our friends at Darkness to Light that would be good to consider.
Eight Questions to Ask Before Allowing Sleepovers
1. What would make my child, tween, or teen “ready”?
Think about your child, their maturity level, and how well they have done spending time away from you. You could also consider enhancing their readiness with some practical necessities like special food needs, a cell phone, certain comfort items. Ask your child what they might be.
2. How well do I know this family?
Consider interactions you have had with the family. Have you seen how these parents respond to their children in different situations? Do you know what their values are or what they are okay exposing their children to and does it align with your family? If you have had little to no interaction, how can you really know they are safe?
3. What kind of adult supervision will there be and who else will be present?
Ask who will be supervising and who else will be in the home for any part of your child’s stay. Keep in mind that about 1/3 of youth are sexually abused by another child, so consider what other kids will be present in the home as well.
4. What is their household like?
Is this a place where my child will be comfortable? Does the layout lend itself to safety and supervision? Do they have a pool or own guns? What will the sleeping arrangements be like and do they have an open-door policy during sleepovers?
5. Can I talk with this parent(s) about my concerns and needs?
If you can’t comfortably voice your concerns, how can you expect your child to feel safe in this home? It doesn’t hurt to ask if the parents have had any child safeguarding training, like CPR and child sexual abuse prevention training.
6. What are my hard and fast rules?
Obviously, no isolated one-on-one situations should be allowed under any circumstances. Beyond that rule, what about movies? Drinking? Does your child need to check in for permission if the original plans change? Consider which of your household rules must be stretched to include another household.
7. What safety and comfort contingencies can I put in place?
Discuss with your child the different scenarios they may encounter to help prepare them. Talk through possible scenarios and the appropriate responses. What if you woke up in the middle of the night and got scared? What if Danny (older brother) asked you to hang out in his room? This is also a good time to consider sending a cell phone with your child – making it easier to call if they are ready to come home. Consider establishing a safe word established so they can text you discretely to come pick them up, no questions asked.
8. What check-in points can we put into the mix?
It might be a good idea to have them text a time or two during the evening or make a phone call before bed checking in.
Having considered all of these questions, what is your gut telling you?