I've had a couple people ask me about our stance on sleepovers after this post, so I decided to write a little more about it. As a background, Phil and I both grew up with parents who allowed sleepovers at friend's houses. Neither one of us had cousins living nearby, so all of our friends weren't family members. We both have great memories of these sleepovers with friends...but also some really bad ones. Both of us recall that sick feeling in the bottom of our stomachs the day after a sleepover where we tried to stay up for the whole night, ate too much junk food, and watched questionable movies. I watched The Shining in 6th grade after my friend's mom asked the group of girls if we were all allowed to watch R-rated movies and I was too embarrassed to state otherwise. That movie scarred me for life. I also played with a Ouija board, did some stupid dares, and between the bus and sleepovers, I learned about everything controversial/morally questionable/swears/the birds and the bees, etc. Phil tells of similar tales...nothing good happens after dark, hyped up on sugar and adrenaline, away from parents. All of these things influenced our decision as to why we didn't want our kids to have sleepovers at friends houses.
First, Phil and I both work in a school, and because of this, we have to attend child abuse prevention classes, watch videos, and be aware of all the potential dangers facing children. We hear the warnings and see the results of kids who suffer abuse and it is hard enough to hear, nevermind actually having to live through it with one of our own kids. Shudder. We are by no means "helicopter parents" and believe our kids need a sense of freedom and want them to run wild and free and be little for as long as possible. We don't want anything to take away their sweet innocence any earlier than needed. We realize they come into contact with potential dangers every single day at school, at sports, at church, you name it. We're not saying that bad things can only happen at sleepovers, we just feel that giving our kids away for the night in a non-family member's house where we don't really know the parents/friends/uncle who lives in the basement is too risky. They have access to our kids all night long while the adults in charge are sleeping.
Secondly, our kids are the luckiest to have so many family members around! We may not have been able to make this decision if we only had one child who was starving for friendships. Our crew has siblings right in their own home, and they have cousins all around (26 with 2 more on the way!) They can experience sleepovers with cousins in an environment where we feel that they are safe and being watched, disciplined and loved just as we would. That's the beauty of having family all on the same page. We don't think our kids need to sleepover anywhere else.
So how do we make this work realistically? Our kids still get invited to sleepover birthday parties, they don't necessarily agree with our stance, and they feel they are missing out when their friends talk about that fun sleepover last weekend. Well, we explain to them that as a general rule, we only sleepover at family's houses. This decision then is not a personal judgment on a particular friend, it's just our family rule.
We do allow them to go to sleepovers, we just pick them up at 9 or so, so they can have the fun part and only miss the "sleeping" part. We also tell them they can have their friend sleep over at our house, if their parents allow that. We don't judge anyone who allows sleepovers (I'm sure we do plenty of things other parent's don't agree with). We know that our oldest is only entering high school so we may need to change the rules as our kids get older, or we may just be too tired to care by the time our youngest is ten ;)
We've made this work for our family thus far, and I think it's been a blessing to be able to sleep each night knowing our babies are all under our roof or with a trusted family member. The peace of mind is worth the temporary disappointment, and I hope one day our kids know we loved them so much that sometimes we had to be the mean parents :)