Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


by Malina

At some point in your child’s social life, they will want to participate in a sleepover. It is a good  idea to decide what your family guidelines are going to be for sleepovers ahead of time, before the question comes up in a less than ideal circumstance.

My sons’ first sleepover invitation was from a girl his age when they were 5. While I liked the family, I was NOT okay with the idea of my child being over there all night unattended (especially at the age of 5!) Luckily my husband and I had already discussed that there would be no sleepovers at all for our children. So it was easy for me to answer and explain that it had nothing to do with them as much as that was our family rule.

As you decide what your policy will be toward sleepovers, there are several things to consider. It is not as simple as you first think. Sleepovers are also not the innocent childhood diversion from your memory.  I grew up going to sleepovers and was lucky enough that they were harmless overall. However, sleepovers are often a place where bullying, chicanery, pornography, alcohol and even abuse could possibly occur. Many parents choose to allow long playdates or gatherings that end about midnight as an alternative to sleepovers. 

Here are some considerations:

Readiness - Children should be able to deal with basic hygiene and getting ready for bed on their own. They should be comfortable falling asleep on their own. Children who have a hard time sleeping in unfamiliar places are not great sleepover candidates.

Presence of older siblings (and their friends) in the home - You may know the parents and the child really well and be comfortable with them. But what about the high school aged sibling and any friends of theirs who might be visiting? I have read and heard several accounts of children who were the subject of abuse in such a situation.

Parenting styles - Do the other parents parent in a similar style to your own?  If not, do they share similar values? Will they be actively monitoring the sleepover or letting the kids do their own thing? Will they even be home the entire time? Do you trust them with your children’s well being?

Exposure to unsavory materials -  Is alcohol available easily in the home? Does your child handle peer pressure well or give in easily? Do you trust your child to say no and call for you to come and get them if things aren‘t good?

Bullying - More common in group sleepovers where the first to fall asleep often has pranks played on them  or when groups of “friends” gang up on individuals for small bedtime quirks. Is your child able to stand up for what they know to be right? How will they react to being the subject of bullying?

Group sleepovers - Birthday parties and the like, group sleepovers can be the ones that are more out of control and less supervised. Bullying and exposure to unsavory materials is more likely even when you know most or all of the kids present.  Are you comfortable with all group sleepovers and feel your child is prepared for them?

Co-ed sleepovers - Some parents feel they are harmless at young ages, some parents allow them even when older. Are you uncomfortable with co-ed sleepovers but comfortable with a different gender sibling being present the whole time? It’s trickier than it seems!

Reciprocation - A seemingly simple solution is to only allow sleepovers at your own home where you are able to supervise and know what is going on. But how would you feel if it was your child’s best friend (and a family you are fairly close to) saying “Sorry, we only allow sleepovers at our home” to your child and that is your policy too? Someone is going to have to give in. Thus really if you allow any sleepovers you have to be ready to deal with reciprocation etiquette and taking turns.

Perhaps you think I am too strict with our “No sleepovers” policy. I hope this has given you some insight into how we reached our decision. Maybe when my children are in their “tweens” it will be adjusted slightly to allow for 1-1 sleepovers with children from families we know REALLY well. But for now I am quite happy to tell my kids, “Sorry we just don’t have sleepovers in our family.”

What are your thoughts on sleepovers? Do you allow them? Starting at what age? What are your family rules regarding sleepovers?



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