• Why is it, that without fail, every time my kid’s have a play date with a friend, within ten minutes or so they’re running over to me to ask, “Can we have a sleep over, please?” It happens so often that I sometimes tell my kids whether it’s an option or not prior to them starting their play date. For some reason, it doesn’t deter them from asking again if they don’t get the answer they like. I guess they figure they have strength in numbers or perhaps eventually I’ll give in, which does not happen.

    I want my kids to experience life and take advantage of opportunities

    I’m often torn as to whether to let them sleep over or not. I’m surrounded by friends with varying opinions. Some make it a rule to never let any of their children sleep over a friend’s house while others are more “kick back” about it and just let their kids pretty much go anywhere. I’m sort of torn in the middle and can see both sides of letting them go. The benefits are that they would have fun, develop their social skills, and learn to be independent. While the down side, of fearing for their safety is flat out scary. I believe both extremes aren’t healthy and I want my kids to experience life and take advantage of opportunities. Therefore, I came up with a checklist I use before I make a decision, which gives me peace of mind and let’s my children know what to expect.

    Sleepover Checklist:

    1. Don’t be afraid to ask – Find out who’s in the house. Both who lives there (mom, dad, siblings, aunts/uncles, and etc) and who comes over to visit. You’re not saying that that you can judge high risk families, but their comfort level in answering will help you get to know them and make an informed decision.
    2. See for yourself – Invite them to come over or meet them somewhere for a play date. This is a great opportunity to see your children interact and get to know the parents.
    3. Case by case basis – Each child is different regardless of their age. Someone can be younger and more responsible and vice versa. Do they know how to contact you if they want to come home or need comforting?
    4. Educate your children. – Teach them to recognize and speak up about what’s right or wrong. If they want to go, then they should demonstrate they understand and are able to describe appropriate and inappropriate touching and what to do about it. Make sure they know to scream stop, get out of the situation, and notify an adult immediately.
    5. Did they earn it? – This is definitely a reward for children so use it accordingly. If they’ve completed their homework, chores, and other responsibilities, then this would be appropriate. If not, then they’ll realize that they have to have these things completed prior to asking in the future.
    6. Safety in numbers? – While some parents feel safer with sleepover parties, since there are more people in attendance, it’s not always true. On some level there are benefits to it, but you have the same risks when they fall asleep or perhaps one person may get picked on by the others. Walk inside to drop them off at the party and observe your child’s comfort level with the group. If you’re not comfortable and have to pick them up later that night, then so be it.
    7. Have them call you – This is part of demonstrating that they’re responsible and gives you a chance to check in with them to say goodnight and gauge how they’re doing.
    8. You don’t have to reciprocate – Although etiquette would lead you to believe this is the protocol, with sleepovers there’s such a variety with family dynamics that you can simply say that you don’t allow it for personal reasons. People will understand even if they’ve observed your child sleeping over another friend’s house. It’s your decision and sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct. After all, it’s a safety issue and it’s your job to protect them.
    9. Don’t waiver – Your child will pester you to no end, and possibly have his/her friend join in, if you show uncertainty. It’s worse to say yes, and then change your mind after you think it over. Be prepared with your list of requirements and discuss them with your children prior to letting them have a play date. This will let them know what to expect and motivate them to present some of the information to you prior to making a request.