Creative Commons/Jolante van Hemert

Creative Commons/Jolante van Hemert

The GEM Debate:
The Great Sleepover Debate: Do You Let Your Kids Do It?

To sleepover or not to sleepover? That is the question that parents are wrestling with, perhaps more now than in previous generations. This thoughtful article looks at that issue and makes an interesting point:

“Sleepovers, long seen as a childhood rite of passage, are under renewed scrutiny by parents weighing the risks. Even smart and well-raised children make stupid mistakes. It’s part of growing up. But the consequences of a small lapse in judgment (much more likely in a group-think gaggle) seem much greater than they once were.”

When I was a kid, you could certainly get into a lot of trouble at a sleepover (or anywhere, really), but certain behaviors didn’t carry as much weight as they do now. Whereas we might have made prank calls when I was growing up, kids have access to cell phones. I don’t even have to count the myriad ways they can cause trouble.

For parents in the middle of the spectrum of never allowing sleepovers to granting every sleepover request, “we should not be afraid to ask questions, nor should we be offended if we are asked in return.” I love this attitude because it allows clear communication. Parents should feel free to ask hard questions of anyone who will be in charge of their child. The parents hosting a sleepover should address other parents’ concerns and encourage them to ask any questions they haven’t covered. That communication builds kinship and the sense that maybe you can leave your child in the care of other adults.

Related: The GEM Debate: Should You Invite Dad To A Sleepover?

I never slept over anyone’s house other than relatives. My parents were adamantly against sleepovers—neither hosting nor allowing my sisters or me to attend one. I don’t recall the sleepover issue coming up a lot, and that’s probably because they were clear that it was never.gonna.happen. Although I now understand the reasons why my parents were so stridently against sleepovers, I’m not against them for my own children under certain circumstances.

I need to know the parents well. No fly-by-night friends or their parents who I just met last week will be allowed to have my children all night. I need to feel perfectly fine asking difficult questions about who will be there, whether or not they have weapons in their home, and their contingency plans in case of emergency. If I know the parents well, I think I would already have the answers to most of those questions and we would likely share much of the same parenting values if I’m already letting my kid hang out with them.

Of course, I have fears every time my children are out of my sight, but I don’t want to let my fears about the unknown stifle them. The balancing act is and always will be how to keep my kids safe, how to allow them to experience the pleasures of youth, and how to let them be in situations where they have to make decisions for themselves. For me, the question is, Is a sleepover the best activity to accomplish all three? I don’t know the answer yet, but I’ll let you know when I get there.

Related: Kids Questions: Sleepover Date

How about you? Do you allow your kids to host or attend sleepovers? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below.