Rethinking Sleepovers

Seems harmless enough, right?

My memories of sleepovers are probably like yours, eating, laughing, gossiping and not sleeping. I’m not sure why I loved spending the night somewhere other than my home. I sure don’t like any bed but my own now. But, back then I was willing to lay on a hard, cold floor, staying up all hours and having a great time.

Recently my husband and I have started wondering if all-nighters are good for our kids. Physically and emotionally, they are a mess when they come home from eating junk, drinking caffeine and missing several hours of sleep. At first we would allow them to sleep over on the condition that the parents of their friends insist that they sleep. We later found that our kids would fall asleep at a reasonable hour, only to wake up in the wee hours and the parents in the home would have no idea that my child and their child were awake for hours while they slept.

My husband asked me this question, “Would you let our child go play during the day at a house where the parents were asleep all day?” The answer was no, of course not. I know my children could stay up much longer than I could. They will outlast the adults every time. Even for our fairly sheltered children and their sweet, fairly innocent friends, we have found  that the middle of the night is when they will try out bad words they have heard, misinform each other about the birds and the bees, and ruin everyone’s sleep for a month with a ghost story that is not easily forgotten.

During waking hours, children do not feel as free to speak about what they shouldn’t. If the adults are sound asleep, this gives them a freedom they never have any other time. At one sleepover, my son’s friends had a very deep religious discussion that led to him crying and doubting God’s existence and the truth of the Bible. This was among Christian boys, nine and ten years of age, who are parented by good people. They were just airing all their

I can only hope they are scared and not fascinated by what they are looking at.

questions, but without an adult present to help guide them through such a tough topic. During the day, the mom or dad would be able to intervene and bring some truth to these common questions.

Because of our experience, we have put a halt to spending the night with friends for our kids. We started to feel like we were leaving them on their own in places where they would not feel comfortable enough to wake an adult if they needed one, or to call us in the middle of the night. This leaves us feeling like we are leaving our kids to fend for themselves any hours they are not sleeping and not under the care of an awake adult.

We have lived in this town long enough to know our kids’ friends well, This is not about being concerned about the character of the kids or their parents. We already knew that the parents we leave our kids with are great people that we trust. But even the best of parents can not supervise while they are asleep. This is more about not trusting children to be left to their own devices. It was a tough call but one I feel like we had to make.

I would love to hear from other moms on this topic. This is new for us and it is hard to explain to our friends and to my kids’ friends. What rules have you made for sleepovers at your house? Do you feel completely comfortable leaving your kids with their friends? What age did you start with sleepovers for your kids. Do you get up in the night to check on kids at your house? Let me know how it works for you in the comments section below.