Why We Encourage Our Kids to Have Sleepovers
I have read several articles recently about parents making the decision to not allow their children to sleep over at other homes. These articles have been well written and they express many valid points. They address our depraved and messed up culture and seek to answer the question can anything good happen after midnight?
As a parent who desires to raise my children in the best possible way, who wants to protect her children from the evils of this world and who wants to bring glory to God in how we parent, I have read these articles and have felt guilty about my parenting decision regarding sleepovers. But as I have prayed about my response, it has been impressed on my heart more and more to share a different perspective.
Because not only do we not have a no sleepover policy in our home, we actually encourage our children to have sleepovers.
My parents were the very best. They loved the three of us girls immensely and they loved Jesus with all of their hearts. They knew a bit about the atrocities of this world and they sought to protect us from them. But when I was seven years old, my sisters and I were playing at our neighbors house in the middle of the afternoon. For 3 years, we lived at each other’s houses, making memories that will never be forgotten. But on this particular afternoon, a memory was imprinted on my mind that I prayed for years to forget.
We were walking through our friend’s living room and her dad was watching a movie on the television. We didn’t even stop, but as we walked through we saw a woman turning on a shower- and blood came out instead of water.
Something so simple as walking through a living room and I was traumatized. I had nightmares for 10 years.
I never told my parents, because I knew that I had seen something that would not have met with their approval. And in my young mind, I believed it was my fault. I thought that if I told them, they would be disappointed in me and never let me play with our friend again.
This experience taught me an important lesson- it is not enough to simply have rules of what you expect for your family. Rules are not enough to protect innocence. Rules are important, of course, but it’s even more important that kids understand that if something negative does happen, they have a safe place where they can run.
In retrospect, I know that my parents were a safe place, but because they had very strict rules about TV watching, I assumed that I had broken the rule by seeing what I did.
What does this have to do with sleepovers? This experience taught me that it is impossible to protect my children ONLY by setting up rules. This particular situation did not occur at a sleepover- it happened in the middle of the day So when I read the logic that says “we don’t do sleepovers, because we want to protect our kids from all of the ugly”, I feel the need to say, “that’s not enough!” What I have sought to do with my children is to teach them that there are bad things and bad people in the world. As their parents, my husband and I will do our best to protect them as much as we can. We are careful about the people they spend time with and we don’t say yes to every invitation. But we have open conversations about what happens if they ever do feel uncomfortable or if they see something that they wish they hadn’t seen.
I have learned that protecting my children involves wisdom in where they go, but of equal importance is giving them the tools they need to handle difficult situations. These tools involve open communication. They include conversations about what to do if they are frightened. They require knowing who they can trust. They even involve kickboxing!
So why do we encourage sleepovers? Part of this tool giving style of parenting is a desire for my kids to learn how to handle situations in safe environments. I don’t want them to get to the age of 18 and not know how to be a decent roommate in college. I want them to learn that all families are different and we can appreciate those differences. I don’t want them to miss out on the late night conversations that somehow bring out the best and most real conversations. I want them to have a wealth of great childhood memories and I don’t want them to miss out on them because I am afraid that something might go wrong. I want my kids to value friendships- to understand that friendships are worth cultivating.
I know many people who have the no sleepovers except for family rule, but for my entire life, I have not lived close to extended family. We didn’t have the opportunity to stay over at Grandma’s house and my kids don’t either. Everywhere we have lived, we have been blessed with friends who have become like family to us. Our kids sleep over at our friend’s houses and they sleep over at ours. I am grateful for these friends who treat our kids like their own. We have only had one time when one of our kids wanted to come home in the middle of the night. The reason? He was feeling sick and couldn’t sleep.
I have never been more grateful for our decision to encourage sleepovers than this past week. Our baby girl had surgery on Monday morning, but we didn’t know until the Friday before that her surgery time would be at 6:30 AM. My husband and I both felt that we should be with our girl when she went into surgery, but our other 3 would not be at school before this needed to happen. We thought about having someone come and stay with them, but because our kids go to two different schools with very different schedules, we knew this would not be an easy task. And then we made the obvious decision and had our kids stay over with friends who they feel completely comfortable and safe with, friends that know their idiosyncrasies, but love them anyway, and a home that they know as well as their own.
On Monday morning, we woke up to the news that schools had been cancelled for the day- the first snow day of the year! As my husband plowed our drive, so that we could get to the hospital, it hit me that I didn’t have to worry about what my kids would do. I knew our friends would take care of them. As it turned out, they were able to play in the snow later in the day, because our friends have the key to our house and they were able to get all of the snow gear.
I am completely confident that God would have taken care of our kids if we did not have this kind of situation in place already, but on a day that was stressful enough, I am so thankful that we did not have to worry about our precious kids and how they would handle having to sleep over at someone else’s home.
Now, I want to be clear that I am NOT an expert on this subject. Our oldest is 11 and it has yet to be seen how our children will “turn out”. I offer this perspective as one of many different perspectives. These are decisions that every family should weigh and determine for themselves. But if my thoughts can encourage you to pray for wisdom as you make this decision and not make the decision based on fear or guilt, then I have succeeded.
I also want to clearly state that a no sleepover policy can be a wonderful decision especially if you do have extended family who live close.
Do you have opinions on sleepovers? I would love to hear them!