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Let’s Talk About The Dreaded Sleep Over

I remember as a kid loving the idea of a sleep over. I would beg and plead with my parents to let me go to sleepovers. The irony is, as a kid, firstly, I did not separate easily from my parents so more often than not, I’d land up really really anxious and wanting to go home half way through the sleep over and secondly, as a kid, being completely unaware of the dangers and pitfalls of sleep overs.

Now, as an adult and a parent, I am more aware than ever, I have read the horror stories of what can happen and it’s a REALLY big deal for me to allow my children to sleep over anywhere.

The list of people I trust with my kids is minute. My parents and my friend Kate, who emigrated at the end of last year. Those are the only people I have ever allowed my children to sleep over with. But Ava is at an age where she wants to have sleepovers. And she’s a confident child that separates easily from us. So I am not worried about getting a midnight call, asking for us to come and fetch her.

On Saturday, it was her best friends birthday party, which turned into a braai that landed up going on for much longer than I think any of us anticipated. And then Ava asked if she could sleep over with her bestie (a boy). And there were so many things I had to consider and quickly. We’ve known the boys parents for two years now, he has had sleepovers at our house, Ava often goes to their house for play dates and honestly, we have become really good friends with his parents, often socializing together. So I trust them and so I agreed.

It was easier to agree to because we were there at their home until almost 9pm and by the time we left to go home, the kids were pretty much already passed out. The two couches pushed together to make a big bed and they were only barely awake.

But still, it’s a big deal to entrust someone with my most precious gifts, my children.

And it got me thinking…. what are the rules and etiquette surrounding sleepovers?

Here is what I’ve discovered through my own experience:

  • The age at which I allow a sleep over differs from child to child and is dependent on the child themselves. I *think* we will wait longer with Hannah, because she is a much more emotionally needy child than Ava is.
  • I prefer to host the sleepover, rather than have my child sleep out. I’ll gladly take on the responsibility of caring for someone’s child, before I’ll entrust my child with someone. 
  • I need to really know and trust the parents before I’ll allow a sleepover. As I said, Ava has only ever slept over with my parents, my friend Kate and now her bestie.
  • I have rules about sleepovers, for example, if I agree to let my child sleepover with you, you are not allowed to take her anywhere, without discussing with me first. You may not leave her in the care of anyone else, even if you’re just popping to the shop for bread and milk, I am trusting you and only you with her care.
  • She is never to be left unsupervised. EVER!
  • If my child is upset for any reason, let me know, irrespective of the time, I will rather come and fetch her in the middle of the night than have her feeling upset or insecure for any reason. 
  • House rules apply to my child too, so explain and know the rules. This applies to both letting her sleepover and hosting a sleepover, my house, my rules. And vice versa for hosting a sleepover in my home, my home, my rules or you can go home. 
  • Sleepovers are limited. This is not an event I’m going to allow every weekend or regularly. Ava has been besties with her friend for two years, we have been close with his parents for two years, he has slept over at our house before, the only reason I allowed her to sleepover this weekend was because it was his birthday. In other words, a special occasion and not just because. 

Guys, it’s a scary world out there, entrusting your precious child to someone else is really really tough, you need to have ground rules in place and even then, you cannot ensure your child’s safety. 

And then of course, there’s this story which has gone viral and a reminder to us all that baddies walk among us, that we can’t actually ever trust anyone, even the people we assume we can!

How do you cope with the sleepover rule? And at what age are you comfortable with letting your child sleepover somewhere else? 

Feature Image Credit: Life Made Delicious 

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21 Comments

  • Reply cath

    Oh ja. This is a big one. I generally have the “family and people I know best” list. Other than that, it’s a big fat hell no.

    April 18, 2016 at 8:02 am
  • Reply catjuggles

    That story is so scary – honestly I mean there was truly nothing that could alarm her. And she married him….

    A by 11 has had plenty of sleepovers but still only with people we know really well. The boys have not yet – only with their aunt. I do think I need to host one for them though

    April 18, 2016 at 8:27 am
  • Reply boveybez

    I’m in the same situation. My daughter turns 10 in 2 weeks time, and we said when she is 10 yo we will consider sleepovers. Her friends have had sleepovers from the age of 6 y.o. I am still hesitant to allow her to sleepover. She is also very independent and confident, but not fully aware of possible dangers out there. #feeling anxious!

    April 18, 2016 at 8:34 am
  • Reply Marcia (123 blog)

    So timely because just yesterday my two asked if they could have sleepovers (friend sleepovers as opposed to Granny sleepovers) and I said, “um, Daddy and I will have to talk about it first” 😉

    April 18, 2016 at 8:54 am
  • Reply Sian

    I havent even thought about it. But my immediate reaction is the same as yours. I would really have to know the parents. I suppose it will become more difficult when they are older, when they have a group of friends and ask to sleep over at a childs house where you dont know the parents that well.

    April 18, 2016 at 9:06 am
  • Reply gillianmh

    Riley (8) had her first friend sleep over about a month ago. I have known the parents since our girls were in pre-primary and I was comfortable leaving her with them. There are very few people I will allow my daughter to sleep out at, my sister, my parents and now these family friends.

    April 18, 2016 at 10:37 am
  • Reply Natalie

    I completely respect your point of view! For my own daughter however, I do let her have sleepovers both at our house and at her friends’ and classmates’ houses. For me, the benefits and great memories made far outweigh possible danger.

    April 18, 2016 at 1:48 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      But there’s always that what if? And then what? I dunno, it’s a really tough one!

      April 18, 2016 at 3:21 pm
  • Reply Tamra

    My kids are still little – 5 & 2 – but I am definitely not keen for sleepovers. Despite the fact that I absolutely loved sleeping over at friends when I was younger, the possible dangers for me outweigh the positives. They are allowed at grandparents, but even then, if the grandparents are entertaining people we don’t know we won’t allow them there. I don’t want to risk something happening to my kids that could screw them up for the rest of their lives.
    Having said that, it is a tricky one to deal with the older they get, so we will have to reassess the situation, friendships and families once they are older.
    Thanks for the great posts!!

    April 18, 2016 at 3:46 pm
    • Reply Tamra

      There are some great books that I’ve read to my son already. Something along the lines of ‘It’s MY body’ and ‘The Uncomfortable Feeling’. Both are very helpful at explaining things at a child’s level without freaking them out. I booked them both out from the library after my husband and I had been to watch Spotlight!!

      April 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm
  • Reply Anon

    (I hope you don’t mind me posting anonymously. You know who I am by my email address)Thanks so much for this post and for the video you included. My daughter is only 18 months old. I have no idea how I am going to handle sleepovers one day. Paedophiles know exactly how to exploit the child and what to use/say to get them to keep quiet. I strongly believe that “stranger danger” is over emphasised. I was molested by my uncle for years – my mother’s brother-in-law – when I was very young. I didn’t do lots of sleepovers when I was a kid, but they babysat us often. If you can’t trust to be able to leave your children with your sister and her husband, who can you trust? My parents thought they knew him. So, I’m sorry to say, sometimes even family isn’t safe. It’s a terrifying thought.

    April 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm
  • Reply michellereneestuyck

    That video is just too scary. What freaks me out is that it is often the people we trust. I am not looking forward to the sleep over stage (luckily far away for me).

    April 18, 2016 at 10:46 pm
  • Reply Jadie Jones

    That video is so scary, a real eye-opener

    April 20, 2016 at 4:41 pm
  • Reply Denise

    I agree with everything you said but not all parents do! I had a really strange situation where we invited a boy from J’s class for a play date after school one Friday… I’ve met the mom briefly (2 min) through a car window once. That’s it. When I sms’d to confirm that he’d come home with me she replied that he was super excited and she’d collect him on SATURDAY at around 2pm Crazy! I was shocked! I guess some people are more trusting than others!

    June 23, 2016 at 5:22 am
    • Reply Sharon

      I don’t get it. How people can be so casual about the safety of their children.

      June 23, 2016 at 6:20 am
  • Reply Marina

    We haven’t had our kids request sleepovers yet and I’m grateful. I don’t think we’ll allow it. Too scary to think of the possibility of danger out there. I like to have my kids with me under my roof under my protection when I go to sleep at night. I will gladly host sleepovers though.

    December 11, 2016 at 12:11 am
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