So. I’m not generally a helicopter mom about most things. My kids play outside by themselves, I let them go to the bathroom by themselves at restaurants, I’m generally pretty chill about letting them try out their wings about most things.
But sleepovers? Eh, not so much.
With the recent news of sex abuse allegations in some faith-based communities, keeping our kids safe is a huge priority. But how do you know what’s safe and what’s not? Consider the statistics:
According to RAINN, victims know their perpetrator in 93% of sexual abuse cases. That means if your child is going to be abused, odds are overwhelming that you already know the offender. Only 7% of child sex abuse happens at the hands of a complete stranger. Your child is in more danger of being sexually assaulted by their friend’s dad at a birthday party, than by a complete stranger while walking through their neighborhood alone at night. To me, that is absolutely chilling. But it makes sense, right? No one ever says, “Meh, I’m pretty sure little Susie’s dad is a sex offender. But I’m going to let little Sally spend the night anyway!” No! Case after case after case is the same: “I never thought he would be the type to do this,” or “I trusted him,” or “He was the last person on earth.”
(Also? I’m using “he” as our fictional perpetrator because 88% of sexual predators are reported to be male, thank you again RAINN.)
You may love your best friend’s husband and think he is a stand-up guy, but so did lots of other moms whose children were victims of abuse. It’s always the person you think it could “never” be. It is a sobering thought.
(And for my friends reading this: I’m not writing this because I think your husband is creepy. For us, it’s just easier to have a blanket rule rather than cherry-pick whose house my child can stay over at. We still love you even if we turn down your invitation.)
It’s also a two-way street in our family. We would not allow sleepovers at our house while my husband and son are home, and I would encourage you to think about having the same policy. Even if everything was 100% on the up-and-up, what if something “funny” happened at your house that could potentially be misconstrued as inappropriate? Is it worth your friendships, your reputation, or even your careers because you wanted to be the “cool mom” and host a sleepover? For me, it’s just not worth it.
So how do you talk to your kids about this without getting into the ugly facts of child sex abuse? I tell my daughter, not untruthfully, that I just sleep better when all my ducks are under my roof. That in a few short years she won’t be sleeping at my house at all, and I want to be with her as many mornings as I can. She can roll her eyes and think I’m the worst mother in the world, but that’s okay. I’m totally down with being “That Mom” if it means her safety – I’m here to be her mom, not her friend. You don’t let your child ride in the car without a seatbelt, why would you put them in a position to be taken advantage of? It truly only takes one incident to change your lives forever.
Consider instead some fun alternatives to traditional sleepovers. Popular now is the idea of a “late-over”: all the shenanigans, less of the drama. We’re also a fan of hotel slumber parties where it’s just mom & the girls, but you could do it the other way around too and send dad and the boys to the hotel for a “guy’s night out” while you have the girls sleepover at the house. There are lots of ways to have fun parties while maintaining safe boundaries, both for your child and your potential guests.
What about you – do you allow sleepovers? Are there special circumstances? Am I just a worrywart? I’m eager to hear your thoughts.