Parties, sleepovers, hanging out! These are all so much fun! Think back to your childhood...what really happened with friends after 10pm? Right? Nothing good. Kids get so excited at the thought of sleeping over at a friends house, but I think the expectations are really disconnected from the reality of the experience. I have younger kids but for my daughter, here is what I think she is dreaming a sleepover will be. She will arrive, everyone will drop everything and welcome her. They will immediately engage in play that she wants to do. They build forts, bake cupcakes, make slime, do their nails, makeup and hair, watch an age appropriate movie and sleep comfortably on a pile of pillows and blankets surrounded by stuffies. In reality, after just a short time, no one can agree on what to do together, the kids begin arguing or disagreeing, slime is too messy, cupcakes are too much work (for the adult) and they just can't decide where to sleep or who's sleeping by who. No big deal right, they need to learn how to deal with false expectations, not being entertained and not everything going their way.
So, while this isn't that big of a deal, there are bigger problems that can arise. I am a mom with much anxiety. I also support the idea that kids need to be bored and need to find their own fun. But NOT at a sleepover. This is when they have the opportunity to explore things in the home that they wouldn't otherwise think to do...secret places, cabinets and closets they were told to stay out of, guns, youtube, random internet sites, shows or stations they were told not to watch. These things sound fun and mysterious and with a friend, how bad can it be? The togetherness and support from a friend (or two or three) gives them strength to explore these unknown or scary things. Most often this is innocent but not always.
As a mom and parent, this is when things get worrisome for me and why I believe nothing good happens after 10pm. I think its fun to spend late nights with friends but at some point, our kids will encounter these situations where they need to be strong enough to say, "this is not fun or safe, we need to stop" and most importantly, have the ability to do something about it. Do you think your 8-year-old is ready do that? Your 9-year-old? What about your quite, curious 14-year-old? Now, let's imagine it starts with sneaking candy and they didn't get in trouble. Then they watch a movie they aren't supposed to and didn't get caught. What if next it leads to investigating the guns in the house? What if the adult or an older youth in the home has a fun, late night game to play with the kids? Will your 8-year-old boy or girl know what to do in any of these situations? Have you had the talk about safe touches? About guns? Have you role played to ensure your child knows exactly what to say or do? I think the best question to ask is: have you set them up to succeed in a situation where they are not comfortable? Sure you tell them to talk to you, call you....do they have a phone? Even if they do, can they get out of the situation like this at 11:30pm in someone else's home? I am not comfortable with my child in this uncertain situation. No, I am not a helicopter or lawnmower parent. And, I'm not against sleepovers, but I do support keeping our youth safe. I am a realist and want to know that when its bedtime for my kids, I can sleep soundly knowing they are tucked in their beds and their safety is in my hands.