Slumber parties, also called pajama parties and sleepovers may give some parents sleepless nights. Deciding whether your child can and should attend slumber parties is often fraught with anxiety, particularly when the invitation comes from a family or a child you don’t know very well. Though no one wants to accuse another family of it, probably the biggest concern is that you place your child at risk when you leave them with another family, for very serious things like sexual molestation.
How big should your concern be? Only you as a parent can answer this. Often we can only go on gut feelings here, especially when we meet someone new. If your gut is telling you this is an inherently bad idea, listen to it.
Yet even with the greatest parental concern, you cannot always know that another child’s parent is a potential molester, and statistically, most of the molestation cases occur when the molester is well-known to the child: a family friend, a relative or the like. If you find yourself greatly concerned about this issue, the best thing to do is have plenty of open conversations with your child about what to do if anyone makes them uncomfortable. These conversations should definitely begin well before your child attends slumber parties.
Other concerns parents have about slumber parties include things like what activities children will be engaging in. Will children be watching PG-13 movies for instance, or will this be a co-ed party? The best way to figure this out is to ask the parents hosting the party.
Questions can be something like the following: What’s on the agenda? What movies will the kids watch? Is television viewing at late hours supervised or unsupervised? Will parents be sleeping in the room with kids or do they leave when it’s lights out time? What are the ages of kids attending?
Another issue that you may want to inquire about before allowing your child to attend slumber parties is whether the parents own weapons. If the answer is yes, you may want to ask them what security measures they have in place to keep weapons well out of kids’ reach. These may seem like intrusive questions, and may be a little hard to ask, but you have to weigh a few moments of being uncomfortable against possible risk to your child.
If you feel your child is not ready to attend slumber parties, or you’re just not ready yourself, you can do some things to help your child feel like they can still participate in these invitations. First, you could plan to host a slumber party yourself. This is a great way to allow children to engage in this overnight activity, where you get to set the rules. It also gives you the opportunity to get know the children and their parents who may issue slumber party invitations to your child in the future.
Second, one option for slumber parties is to allow children to attend the evening activities and then pick them up before bedtime. This way kids get the benefits of partying with friends, without the sleepless nights that sleepovers usually entail. Alternately, you might ask a new parent if you could volunteer as an extra “supervisor” at a party.
It’s important to bear in mind that most kids attending slumber parties are never going to have anything bad happen to them at these parties. However, you should also keep in mind that there is always a risk element when children are concerned, whether they are with you or with another family. Weigh your feelings, consider any instinctual or gut feelings you may have, and set the rules accordingly.