A mom asked me what my thoughts were on sleepovers because in her view they are sneak-outs, sneak-ins, drink ups, and just a big hot mess to avoid. Her view is increasingly shared by other parents that interpret the world as changed since our childhoods. Society is not only more dangerous but increasingly more litigious adding another layer of risk. Once upon a time parents worked things out, or gave children room to work things out on their own. Now lawyers and law enforcement are a starting point for resolution. It goes without saying that as a parent you will be held responsible for your children’s and their friends’ actions while under your roof. In the mom’s view, there is an age when sleepovers are no longer appropriate which is between 13-15.
While younger children may not be sneaking out, drinking alcohol, or using drugs there are dangers to be aware of. As a father of six daughters and two boys, I am cautious of the people I entrust them to, as you should be with your children. This is especially true with young children. Sexual abuse affects 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys. It is most prevalent between the ages of 7-15, and most commonly perpetrated by people you know and trust. These are facts and I see them first hand in my role as a physician with the child protective team. Part of protection from abuse is bringing it into the light, talking about it at an early age, using correct terms for body parts, and teaching them that their body is their own.
So, my stance on sleepovers is that an actively involved parent will know the right choice to make. Consistently making good decisions requires being an involved parent. That means participating in school, sports, and social activities. It means getting to know your child’s friends, friends of friends, and other parents. The world is not the same as it was when we were young, nor was it then the same as when our parents were young. Kids should not be sheltered and should be given space to make moral decisions which will help them to grow into caring and moral individuals
For me, that means judging a situation case by case, but my default is to say yes when the hosts are trusted and my child is doing all the right things otherwise.
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