Why Sleepovers Scare the Crap Out of Me

Sheri Reed

girls sleeping bags slumber party sleepoverSeparation anxiety, risk-taking, bullying, humiliation, and emotional bloodshed -- are these the wonderful things sleepovers and slumber parties are made of? As I recollect, yes, these aspects were definitely part of the "fun," especially as we grew older! However, in my younger days, despite some of the pitfalls like Bloody Mary and getting your sleepy hand stuck in warm water, I loved sleepovers so.

As a parent, on the other hand, I'm still negotiating my feelings about sleepovers. I have yet to allow my 8-year-old to sleep over at a non-family member's house, and I'm not quite sure when I'll let him -- it just has to feel right for me. Several important factors have to fall in place, and they haven't yet.

This recent NYT article from an M.D. reminds us about some of the normal sleepover anxieties for kids and parents (and provides me some new ones) and that there are no parental guidelines for sending your kid on sleepovers. It's true. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t offer age guidelines or any other advice, so we're pretty much on our own with figuring out when and how we will send our kids overnight to another family's house.

My anxieties over sleepovers, and slumber parties in particular, definitely stem from my own childhood experiences. Back in the '80s, parents, or at least my parents, weren't all that rigid when it came to these "fun" overnight events. I remember one slumber party that resulted in a older mean girl verbally accosting a friend and me until we locked ourselves in a bathroom -- all while the birthday girl's mom snoozed away in her bedroom down the hall. Eventually, I called my parents to come pick me up, and the hostess still never woke up. The next day, after a call from my parents, the mother revealed she had taken sleeping pills while she had about 10 tween girls under her supervision. Um, yikes!

For this reason and many others -- both real and imagined -- there are several factors that will have to be in place before I'm going to be open to sending my son off. In fact, he was just invited to his first birthday sleepover, and I let him attend the party, but I didn't let him stay overnight.

In order to be ready to send my son on a sleepover, I need several things to be in place. I need to be able to trust that my son can handle or manage any issues that may arise, I need to know the other family fairly well, and ideally, the other family will also know my son fairly well. Does this sound overprotective or too idealistic? Well, sorry, this is where I'm at with it, and so far I can't really budge or feel content with any lesser expectations.

There are already so many tricky factors that come along with sleepovers and slumber parties: sleeping in a strange place and playing by another family’s rules, as well as the social and peer pressures that arise during overnighters with several kids. I want to make sure my son has the tools to appropriately cope -- and that I do, too, which means I need to feel the time and situation are right.

It may seem like I'm paranoid or completely against sleepovers, but that is definitely not the case. Scared, worried, and cautious, yes, but I'm all for sleepovers in the right situation. My son is still pretty young, but it's not really about his age. We simply haven't established, outside of our family, close enough relationships with other families we know from school or sports yet. But I have no doubt that we will and that the decisions will get easier as my son gets older, but for now, we're just not there yet.

What are your rules about sleepovers and slumber parties? What has to be in place before you'll allow your child to attend?


Image via glenngould/Flickr

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