Parenting Tweens

A Second Thought About Slumber Parties

As parents we want to keep our children safe but it’s impossible to watch over them 24/7. Where do we draw the line between good-parenting and outright paranoia?

Let’s chat about the innocent slumber party… the one night parents finally get a break!

When my daughter hit the 3rd grade she had a new-found interest in sleepovers.  She was more than ready to take a break from her older brother and spread her social-butterfly wings.  I had my apprehensions but didn’t want to rain on her little parade.

It can be a delicate task explaining to a 3rd grader why they can’t participate in something everyone else seems to be doing. It felt like saying “no” would make her an outcast amongst the school’s “inner circle”.

Despite my reservations, I allowed her to participate in two sleepovers that year. After the second one (which included 13 girls), she and I both knew accepting the invite wasn’t a good decision.

Let’s just say, there was a lot of turmoil, gossip, mini-arguments and boys, yes BOYS (the birthday girl’s older brother plus his friends)!

Five reasons why I banned sleepovers:

1. Vulnerability. A sleeping child is in their most vulnerable state. Some children are naturally hard sleepers and if anyone wanted to harm them, they’d be an easy target.

2. Sedatives. We’ve all heard of parents giving a child cough syrup or other sedatives for them to fall asleep faster and/or stay asleep longer. It happens.

Same thing with adults. If it makes sense for grown-ups to be cautious of someone slipping something into their drink, wouldn’t it makes more sense to prepare children for the same possibility.

It’s unfortunate to have to prepare a child for something so sinister, but children are naturally unsuspecting. We may as well add this to the life-skill training right along with active-shooter preparedness.

3. Just how well do you know the family? We get the sleepover invite and initially have no reservations. But take a pause to think about how well you really know everyone who lives in the home.

We know the mom, but how familiar are we with dad, siblings and anyone else living in the home. Hi and bye at school functions doesn’t count.

When it comes to abuse, the adult-male in the home shouldn’t automatically be the prime suspect. Is sibling sexual abuse on your radar?

Social Work Today sites sibling abuse as the least recognized form of abuse, while sexual abuse by related adults in a family receives the most attention.

Also consider… Is it a single-parent home? Who visits at night? Is there drug or alcohol use? Will the kids have access to it? What about weapons?

4. Can’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t be naïve.

A pedophile can be very kind and have a conservative, clean-cut appearance.  Draw a mental picture of a Catholic Priest, Coach, Scout Leader, Sunday School Teacher or friendly neighbor, they rarely look creepy.  

We’ve always put so much focus on protecting our daughters from pedophiles, but all along, our sons have been in an equal amount of danger.

Without completely “sheltering” our children and painting the world as all rainbows and roses, serious discussions regarding abuse require more than just one conversation.

5. Finding a way to make it real. Young children need to understand that sexual assault isn’t just something that happened “in the old days” or something that happens to “other people”.

The Truth…

Healing from gossip and petty girl-fights is much easier to deal with than the life-long psychological damage of sexual assault.

Source, modified: **

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