Saturday, May 26, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Up in the air over sleepover policy

When I read The Berenstain Bears and the Slumber Party to my kids, I am reminded of all the slumber parties and sleepovers I had as a young girl.

Like Sister Bear experienced in the story, I've been to slumber parties that got out of hand. There was rowdy behavior, loud music, uninvited guests, and of course, nobody got any sleep.

Growing up, it seems that slumber parties were a standard way to celebrate birthdays.

When I was in elementary school, I was always spending the night at a friend's house. It was usually the same group of friends and all of our parents knew each other very well. Though things did sometimes get wild and unruly, a parent always got things back under control.

That all changed during my middle school years, when I spent almost every Friday night at the home of my friend Tiffany. Her parents would go out and we'd have the house to ourselves. We would watch MTV, order pizza, call boys, gossip and not get much sleep. Apparently, our parents trusted each other, and they trusted us.

They felt that we were responsible enough to stay home alone. Most of the time we were well-behaved, but sometimes we'd sneak out of the house or invite friends over and our parents never knew.

My kids have never been invited to a sleepover, but I know it won't be long.

Remembering how some of my sleepovers turned out, I'm not sure how I feel about my kids staying over at someone else's house. While having lunch with two friends recently, I brought up the topic of sleepovers since they have kids older than my 7- and 4-year-old.

One friend, who has a 13-year-old daughter, and twin 6-year-old boys, said that sleepovers have become a huge issue with her teenager. Her daughter constantly wants to stay at a friend's house and gets upset if she's not allowed to. My other friend told us that she has a no-sleepover policy for her three elementary school aged children.

At first, I thought this sounded harsh, but what she said made sense to me. She explained that this policy prevents her from having to pick and choose which sleepovers her kids can attend. If she doesn't know the family well, or thinks her child's friend is a bad influence, then she would have to try and explain to her kids why they can't spend the night at a certain friend's house.

Also, she pointed out that there may be activities going on in someone's house that nobody knows about such as abuse or domestic violence. To be fair, her policy also means that her kids can't spend the night at their best friend's house, or someone that she already knows and trusts.

She realizes that her "no-sleepover policy" seems extreme to others, and some mothers have argued with her about it and tried to persuade her to change her mind. In the end, she is convinced this is the right choice for her family.

After hearing her point of view, my other friend said she wishes that she would have started the same policy when her teenager was younger. Now that her daughter is older, she feels it wouldn't be fair to suddenly stop letting her stay with friends. Since this is the age when sleepovers can lead to mischief, she only lets her spend the night with close friends whose parents she knows well. She also makes sure that a parent will be home the entire time.

In the book, Mama Bear talks to Sister Bear about responsibility and privilege before she heads off to her slumber party. She points out that a sleepover is special privilege for kids and it's important to act responsibly while at a friend's house. Mama Bear also talks about how responsibility isn't just for kids, but for parents as well. It's important for parents to ensure their kids will be safe and properly supervised.

Though I still haven't decided what my sleepover policy will be, Mama Bear offers excellent advice for any parent.

Danielle Hauser is a married mother of two who lives in the Westchase area.

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