Growing up, I could hardly wait for the weekend. Not only was it a nice break from school, but my friends and I often had grand plans for sleepovers. We'd stay up all night playing MASH, talking about the cute boys at school, and watch Disney channel.
It was all so innocent.
When I hear stories about other's experiences at sleepovers, it makes me skin crawl. Even though my son is only one year old, I know he will inevitably be invited to sleepovers. While my first reaction is to ban them completely, I know that might not happen. However, as I've talked to others, and thought about the situation myself, I've come up with a few things I plan to do to help keep my children safe at sleepovers.
Know the parents
One would hope that all parents would have their child's best interest in mind. A responsible parent will supervise a sleepover to ensure that it is a fun and safe environment. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. I remember hearing stories about parents who would supply alcohol for their extremely underage children. These parents thought that by allowing that in their home, it would prevent their kids from drinking other places, and getting alcohol illegally.
Teach them values
Teaching your children values, and the importance of them, is a valuable life lesson. Focus on why your family holds certain standards. In those moments when they are tempted to do something, if they've been taught certain principles they will remember them. That's not to say they will always follow them because children and teenagers will make mistakes. However, they will know if they are doing something that is appropriate. If they have values instilled into their minds, they will be far more likely to avoid trouble than if they had been raised with the mentality of "you only live once."
Teach them to say, "No."
One of the hardest things an adolescent can do is to say, "No." On one occasion, I remember attending a sleepover of someone I didn't know well. Late into the evening, we started watching a movie. This friend pulled out a movie I knew I shouldn't watch. It took all my courage to say I didn't feel comfortable watching it. Guess what? She, and the other girls at the sleepover, were fine with that. Because my parents taught me that it's OK to say no when I feel uncomfortable, I was able to avoid an awkward situation. Sure, I risked seeming "uncool." Yet, I also knew that if people thought I was lame, they weren't worth trying to impress.
The best way to keep an eye on children during a sleepover is to allow the child to host them at your house. This isn't license to sit in the same room and listen to their every word. However, it does allow you to enforce certain rules. Make your home a place where your child's friends feel welcome and safe.
Teach them consequences
If a child thinks he can get away with anything, he will probably push the limits. On the other hand, if she knows that if she disobeys family and house rules, consequences will follow, she may think twice before doing something inappropriate at a sleepover. Follow through if she does break the rules.
6. Gain their trust
When I was a teenager, I realized my parents were two of my best confidants. They were always the first I told about most things in my life. This included anything that had gone amiss at parties. Don't be your child's best friend — be their parent. Make sure he knows he can call you if something goes wrong, or even admit his mistakes. If she knows you are there for her, she will be more likely to confide in you about what is going on in her life.
7. Trust them
Eventually, you have to let your children go out into the "real" world, and hope that what you've taught them has had an impact. It's OK to be cautious, and restrict your children from attending certain events. However, keeping them locked up isn't the right way to go. If they've sufficiently showed that they can be trusted when away from home, then do just that — trust them. Have faith that they will do what's right. If something they don't feel right about comes up, they'll know how to handle it.