Our family has decided to avoid sleepovers. Before you start reading (which I hope you will do before commenting), let me start by saying that this is what we, after much prayer and consideration, have decided as a family. This is what works best for us. This is our rule for our family. This is in no way a judgment on others who do something different. We are just families that handle things differently. I recently re-read another post that was written last year about this topic. I have mulled over sharing this before and have decided it is time for me to share my own experiences.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s move on…to the 3 reasons why our family avoids sleepovers.
By Will Odom, Contributing Writer (and Erin’s hubby!)
When we were young parents with a newborn, a godly woman, whom I respect greatly, gave us some advice that Erin and I took to heart and discussed at length.
She was the preschool director at our former church and demonstrated immense love and caring for families with young children.
Everyone needs someone like her in their lives, and we are truly blessed that God crossed our paths.
One day while sitting in her kitchen, she shared, with compassion in her voice, one of her biggest regrets as a parent: letting her kids spend the night with other children.
I immediately had flashbacks to my own childhood and the numerous sleepovers that I had been a part of.
I also instantly knew why that was her regret.
As a parent, I am charged with protecting my children, whatever that may look like. It is often difficult to find a balance between letting them explore or develop and keeping them safe.
I want them to climb trees and ride their bikes with no hands. I want them to take risks and have fun doing so. I don’t want to raise fearful children that live in a bubble, but I do want them to be cautious and be prepared.
I want to protect them from things that can hurt them physically, mentally or emotionally.
I strongly believe that is my God-given responsibility as a parent. That looks different for different families, but based on my experiences and those of my wife, we determined that no sleepovers is one step we will take to protect our daughters.
There are really 3 parts to why we have decided against sleepovers for now:
1. Personal Experience
The reason I instantly knew of my friend’s regret is because I had experienced what can happen when children are unsupervised in someone else’s home.
While many kids go to sleepovers that are not a problem, it only takes one incident to ruin a child’s innocence. That was the case for me.
I have never shared this publicly and really very few people know about my experiences, but if sharing my own pain will encourage someone to be more cautious, I am willing to share.
As a preteen boy, I was first exposed to graphic pornography while spending the night with the son of a family friend.
They had a satellite dish (a big deal since we lived out in the country and didn’t even have cable), and he knew which channel showed the graphic scenes. When his parents went to bed, he would turn it on and watch it. He also knew where the magazines were kept.
He was older than me, so I didn’t want to seem like a “baby,” but part of me knew it was wrong and that we shouldn’t have been watching it. I was ill-prepared for dealing with the situation.
It was also during those times that other, more personal circumstances unfolded.
I was taken advantage of by my friend a few times and asked to do things that no kid should have to do. A couple of times, someone else was also involved.
I don’t want to go into details because some things are better left unsaid and glorify the Enemy, but I have dealt with the scars of those interactions well into my adulthood.
Because I had never been taught how to handle the situation, I’m not sure I even realized what was really happening at the moment.
I was embarrassed and confused and didn’t know what to do or who to tell. This would affect me for years to come.
As time went on, that stopped, but other sleepovers would still introduce me to things that I was not ready to handle.
In addition, though my wife (Erin) was never molested physically, she was exposed to other issues at sleepovers.*
Again, I know that not all sleepovers end as poorly as some of mine did, and I had sleepovers that were harmless and fun. However, if there is a chance that something could go wrong, it is not one that I am willing to take.
2. Technology: Now vs Then
Many people say that things are worse now than when they were growing up. I am not sure that I agree with that.
It’s not really a now vs. then battle. These types of things have been happening for quite some time.
I believe the issue is that many accepted what happened, were scared to say anything, or didn’t know how to talk to anyone. As such, these situations went unreported.
However, on a certain level, I do believe it is worse for one reason: technology.
While TV and magazines have been available for a long time, the Internet and smart phones have made things so much more available and accessible.
While I can’t always control technology, I can teach my children how to use it responsibly. That way, when someone tries to show them something at school or they are tempted themselves, hopefully they will return to that teaching.
I pray that when that day comes (and it will most definitely come) that God will direct them back to the values my wife and I have tried to instill in them, and they will make a Christ-centered decision.
I have just found that sleepovers tend to leave children vulnerable and put them in situations that perhaps they are not ready to deal with when it comes to technology and being exposed to things their little eyes should not see.
Some would say that we are sheltering our children by not allowing them to participate in certain activities.
There are numerous other ways that I will foster my kids’ independence, let them explore, have adventures, etc., but this is not one of them.
Soldiers are not sent out into battle without preparation, training, guidance, and education. Why would I send my kids into a battle that they are not prepared to fight?
Yes, we will teach them how to deal with the situations and stand by their side as they go through life. We will instruct them in how to protect their boundaries.
I want them to know what to do if something does happen and for them to be assured that they can always come to us.
The question has been asked if this works both ways.
Do we allow children to spend the night at our house? And the answer is no.
We do allow others kids to come over and play even if the parents don’t stay.
We take these precautions, so I am not alone with other people’s children so that there is not even the appearance of something.
I’m not so sure that anything good really happens at night anyway.
Why not just have longer playdates or other activities during the day?
Anything that is worth doing can be done during the day.
We are extremely picky about whom our children can stay with. So far, it has only been with their grandparents.
While we don’t live in fear, we do what we can to protect our children. We do not want others to be fearful but to be wise.
Ultimately, our children are a gift from God, and we trust them to our faith in Him, but God has also entrusted them to us. And that is something that I take quite seriously.
We strongly believe that education and training your children is a key component to protecting them. Here are a few resources to help parents of younger children begin conversations with their children:
It’s My Body
I Said No
The Right Touch
No Trespassing-This is My Body!
Sara Learns to Yell & Tell
Samuel Learns to Yell & Tell
God Made Me: Safe Touch Coloring Book
The Swimsuit Lesson
Do You Have a Secret
Check out the free mini-ecourse training on Talking to Kids about Sexuality from Intoxicated on Life.
Read my follow-up to this post, 4 Resources for Talking to Children About Safe Touch, for even more suggestions.
Do your children participate in sleepovers? If you avoid them, what are the reasons why your family avoids sleepovers?
Even though I was never molested or abused at a sleepover, I experienced my fair share of exposure to things and unedifying behavior that I would like to protect our girls from.
I never told my parents any of this when it was happening. So, although I was never abused, I was exposed to some very adult things at sleepovers. It’s also important to note that I always went to Christian schools. ALL of these sleepovers were at the homes of children from my Christian school or church. ALL of these sleepovers were at the homes of Christian families.
Read Will’s follow-up to this post by clicking on the image below: