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Should you let your child sleep over?

The 3 factors that made me say no to this childhood tradition.

Erin Stewart has concerns about her girls going on sleepovers.
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The sleepover debate is raging again at our house.

When our daughters were younger, we made a blanket no-sleepover rule. This applied to friends, cousins, anyone. I didn’t want my little ones spending the night elsewhere, and I really didn’t want to be responsible for other people’s young children through the night either.

But now I have a pre-\teen who thinks it’s time to reopen the discussion. She’s older and wiser and according to her, fully capable of taking care of herself.

I still don’t like it. Maybe I’m being a little too much of a helicopter parent on this one, but I don’t feel like the benefits outweigh the risks on this one. Here’s why:

1. There are too many variables. I have been surprised more than once to find out that a random uncle is living in a guest bedroom or a renter that no one mentioned has set up in the basement. And those are just the tangible surprises I can see. The truth is, you never really know what is going on at someone else’s house. You don’t know the inner struggles people may have that could put your child at risk while asleep, unsupervised at their house. For me, that’s just not a risk I can take, no matter how well I think I know somebody.

2. Social media scares me. I have to be a prude on this one, but I am horrified by what my daughter can easily see on the internet. At home, we have filters for her devices that block out the worst of what the World Wide Web has to offer. But at a friend’s house, I have no such security. I also don’t know what kind of shows or apps are allowed at another friend’s house, or what kind of texting/app chatting goes on.

3. Kids get stupid at night. I went to many sleepovers while I was growing up, and I have to say, nothing good happened after midnight. It’s all fun and games until it’s actually time to go to bed, and more often than not, kids end up doing something stupid or getting into sleep-deprived arguments with each other. The best part of any sleepover is staying up late, not the actual sleeping over and waking up sprawled across someone else’s basement floor with a toddler brother poking dinosaur figurines in your face. So my kids are allowed to do late nights, but when it’s time to go to bed, they come home.

I do realize there are many ways to allow sleepovers on a case-by-case basis. I could only let my daughters go somewhere I know the people extremely well and know all the house rules and media limits. But I don’t want to go down the path of picking and choosing who is “worthy” of having a sleepover. I feel like that sets a dangerous judgmental precedent for my children as well. I’d rather set a blanket rule that we sleep in our own home, period.

If my daughter wants to have kids over here, that’s fine by me. That may seem hypocritical, but it’s all about what you are comfortable with as a parent. I am a pretty widely self-admitted control freak, so this is just who I am. But I don’t think sleepovers are inherently bad. In fact, I’m grateful for parents who are willing to let their kids sleep at my house so my kids at least feel like they’re not completely missing out.

But for me, I’m not OK giving up that much control for something that simply isn’t a necessity. Sure, stay up late. Have fun. But when it’s time to conk out, come home so we can both get a good night’s sleep.

What are your family sleepover rules?

From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Erin Stewart discusses it all while her three children dive-bomb off the couch behind her. Read more from Erin, plus get info on her upcoming novel, “Scars Like Wings,” at www.erinstewartbooks.com.