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My daughter is seven and has been invited to her first sleepover by a classmate.

My experience (Male ango saxon) is that I grew up going to sleepovers from age 7 to age 18 so I think it's normal.

My wife's experience (Female immigrant background) is that she was never allowed to go to sleepovers. She was open to the idea.

Another friend from the class has parents who have declined to let their kids go to sleepovers. Their concern was that corrupting influence of older siblings (particularly later years approaching teenage years) happens particularly on sleepovers.

I'm a little bit torn. Part of me thinks you can't protect a child from everything and have a 'completely sheltered attitude'. But at the same time - for those adult things that come in the right time in life, I'd like to be there as a parent to guide my child through them, instead of getting a teenage impression and values. (The saying that the schoolyard gets the facts right, but misses the point entirely).

My question is: How do I make a decision about a precedent for my child going to sleepovers?

  • Is this a sleepover with a classmate or a family member? Many people treat them differently, I think. – Erik Apr 6 '17 at 11:17
  • This is for a classmate – hawkeye Apr 6 '17 at 12:14
  • One more - is your question really "how do I reach a decision" or "what are pros/cons for each"? Because I don't think we can tell you HOW to reach a decision, but we can maybe help you to reach A decision. (And sorry if I'm being pedantic :P ) – Erik Apr 6 '17 at 12:26
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    If either of you feel unsure, do not allow it. With 8 kids, we have sleepovers as an everyday event. – user27143 Apr 6 '17 at 21:10
5

In my own opinion, your daughter should already know about sex, hygiene, drugs, theft and current events. Yes, I understand that you might temper the information for her age, but she needs all the information she can get from you -- especially before she matures enough to go through the, "I'm not listening to you." phase.

You help her learn how to stand up for herself and against peer pressure. I find that there are usually a few movies or TV shows that I can watch with my child that starts the conversation in a non-threatening way. "What did you think when she stole the fruit?" "Why do you think she agreed to do something she knew was wrong?" "What could she have done instead?" You teach, you listen, you guide her to good ideas, and you show by example how you expect your child to react under similar circumstances.

So in this example, I'd call the parents and ask what the plan is. Will there be older girls or boys in the home? Will there be a bedtime? Does anyone smoke? Are they watching TV or a movie? Is it a movie that is rated appropriately? If you have other questions, write them down and ask. If you are concerned that the parents might drink alcohol and you need to know -- ask. Yes, it is uncomfortable but this is your child -- and even in another home, she is your responsibility.

I think the idea of hosting your own slumber parties is good. No one can say you must send your child to another party, but if you host some, your child will have the experience in a way that you are comfortable with.

I loved slumber parties. We stayed up all night as as we got older, we snuck out. It was part of making mistakes -- but sort of safe ones as we were in a group. I tried my first pot at a slumber party. My point is, kids are going to do what kids do. I did not need a party to smoke pot -- it was everywhere and if I had not had it in the relative safety of my friend's home, I'd have tried it at the park or mall.

Preparation is the key. Tell the truth about your fears -- but be accurate. Know that now is the prime time for teaching your child how to be in the world. Very soon -- sooner than you would ever think, she'll be doing things that you know nothing about. By the way, I was eleven when I started smoking cigarettes and pot -- and my parents did not know until I was around fourteen.

If your daughter is not the sort of personality to say, "No." and stick with it under pressure, then you do need to be very particular about where she spends the night.

She needs to know that no matter where she is and no matter what the time is or if she has broken a rule or outright disobeyed you -- that one call will get you there as soon as possible -- no questions asked. That doesn't mean there will not be consequences, but that no matter how wrong she is, you are her parents and you'll come.

4

I understand why you are worried. It can be hard to try and do "damage control" when your kid finds out about something you'd rather they didn't (yet). But it's a reality of life. Your kids will find out about things before you want them to and nothing will prevent that (short of living on an island with no contact with the outside world at all).1

That's not to say there aren't things you can do to preempt these things. Start by talking with the parents of the friend hosting the sleepover. Find out how they plan on doing things. Express your concerns. If it seems ok, go for it. If their plan is unacceptable, say no and possibly offer to host a sleepover yourself sometime.

Finally (and most importantly), talk with your daughter. I hope you have a relationship where she feels comfortable being open with you. (If not, I'd start working on that.) Ask her how the sleepover went. Was there anything that bothered her? Talk about that. If you have to, explain simply what she learned about (then let her ask questions). Give her correct facts and start guiding her. While you may not have wanted to start this conversation yet, you have a good opportunity to do so. By doing so, your daughter will learn to further trust you and to look for you for guidance on these sorts of things, not her friends, their siblings, the internet, etc. And, on balance, is a pretty good place to end up.

1 No matter what you are worried about your child learning before you are ready, there's always a chance it will happen. Older kids at school, on the playground or on the bus. Classmates who learned from older siblings. Older siblings of kids your daughter has play dates with. Social media or the internet. You may be able to fend off all of this. You may not.

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