A hot topic in the parenting world right now is the question, “Should I let my kids do sleepovers or not?” I’m going to try to keep my views on this short, factual, based on my own personal experiences & the experiences of those close to me.
My husband and I have talked about this often, as of recent. Even though our daughter is only two, we know there will soon come a day where she wants to do sleepovers. I believe that the days of letting your kids go and sleep at so and so’s house are long gone. In my opinion they have been unsafe even when I was in elementary school (I’m 27 now, so do the math). There were a number of questionable things that I witnessed and experienced first hand during sleepovers. Being a parent has caused me to look at my own past and uncover lots of things that happened to me growing up that I never really payed attention to before having a child of my own…things that I used to think were no big deal have now become things that I know for sure I don’t want my daughter to experience.
Let’s start with some facts. Most sexual abuse occurs in kids between the ages of 7-15, with the majority of those kids being girls. One in five girls are sexually abused in their life. One in twenty boys are as well. Kids are usually abused by people the parents trust, NOT strangers. We all know “stranger-danger”, but three out of four kids abused are violated by someone they know very well. This may be hard to understand for some of you, but most children are not forced into the sexual abuse. It occurs after the grooming period of attention, gifts, and trusting happens. This is why statistically, most children do not immediately go to their parents after the abuse initially occurs, even if their parents have well taught them about sexual abuse. They easily become confused and feel shameful by what’s going on & they are not always likely to run and tell mom.
It’s not just the parents you have to worry about at the sleepover. Let’s consider that a vast majority of the abuse occurs from a relative of the friend, an older sibling (or the sibling’s friend), or the actual friend themselves. What if your daughter is 13 & she feels validated or special that the friend’s older brother is giving her inappropriate sexual attention? She certainly isn’t going to come running to you & tattle. This is where parents have to understand that there are many different types of abuse. There is also a thing called “non-contact” child abuse, which includes a child’s exposure to pornography, voyeurism, or other inappropriate content. With pornography being easy as ever to access through the computer and television, parents have to wake up and protect their kids by taking action to block these avenues. It is impossible to go to other peoples’ houses and “kid-proof” all of their devices, which is why lots of parents today are just saying “NO” all-together to sleep overs. These parents feel the amount of unsafe things that could happen to their child while they are outside of their care overnight far outweighs any good that could come from a sleepover, and I agree in a lot of aspects.
Yes, these stats are dark, but they are accurate….which begs the question, “Do we let these fears of our children being abused control our lives and suck the fun & adventure out of their adolescent years?” “Sleeping over is a right of passage, and it’s normal”, is what I heard one guy say. I beg to differ. We usually hear men say these things because most men were not afflicted by sexual abuse. I’ll bet every woman reading this right now can recall being sexually violated, taken advantage of, or feeling uncomfortable due to someone else’s sexual advances at some point in her life. Men can’t say the same, so naturally, they often don’t share the same views as women in regards to sleepovers.
I’m open to investigating further before deciding on a yes or no answer. I think this situation should be taken case by case. Use your intuition. If you get ANY weird feelings about anyone, your gut is usually right. Don’t like a friend’s older brother? You’re probably right somewhere in that feeling. I don’t put myself in situations with anyone I feel uncomfortable with, and I definitely don’t do it with my kid. I urge you to use this assessment tactic with everyone: your kids dentists, doctors, coaches, pool guy, etc. If you get a weird feeling about anyone, immediately detach from them. There is no way of knowing if someone is a predator. Predators are more than often charismatic, trusting, charming, & appear to be innocent. It’s always better safe than sorry….and you should never be sorry for trying to protect your kids.
I urge you to open up this conversation with your spouse, and try to decide what fits your family best. A negotiation with the child is a great compromise. Maybe your child can have friends sleep over, that way you can protect them without robbing them of the excitement of a sleepover. I see this becoming common-place among kids, now. I already know 3 parents who don’t do sleepovers, whereas I didn’t know any growing up. Let’s open up the lines of communication! Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy, so let’s expose it out in the light & take all of the shame & fear away from kids. Let’s empower our children to make good choices and to feel comfortable talking to us.
Here are some recent links of others discussing this same topic that you might find helpful:
Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments, and let’s all be respectful of one another’s opinions