During my workshops, parents often ask, “What about sleepovers?” As usual with most parenting questions, how you decide to answer the sleepover question will depend on your child’s age, personality, and desire for this experience. Do sleepovers feel important to your child? Are they part of their social world? Your answer should also depend on your ability to Talk to Adults and Listen to Kids. Sleepovers are Yellow Light situations, and that should be acknowledged. That means, use your yellow light strategies so you can feel good about the sleepover, if you decide to allow it.
These points might help you to decide your level of preparedness and comfort for the sleepover. Most of this is focused on the younger child; there are other considerations for older kids, preteens and teens.
*How well do you know the family? How sure are you that drugs or alcohol are not an issue in the household? Do you know their rules? Would you expect them to have questions for you, if their child slept at your house? What does your intuition tell you about the sleepover? Does the family know you well enough to know that you talk openly about the Privates Rule?
*Can you have an open conversation with the family; would they welcome questions? “Who will be at home? Are there older kids or teens that will be there? [If so, get a sense of how limits are set regarding the older kids.]” “What are the sleeping arrangements?” “What time is bedtime?” Could you find a way to bring up the Privates Rule, such as: “We have been teaching her to follow rules about privacy, so, can we tell her that she can expect to be alone in the bathroom and when changing?”
*Regardless of your child’s age, make it clear to the hosting family that your child should be allowed to contact you at any time, and that you do not mind picking them up at any time, if they decide they just want to come home. “I would rather pick him up than have him upset, so we told him he can call us at any time. We wouldn’t be surprised if we end up driving over tonight.”
*Sleepovers are an important time to revisit the Private’s Rule with your child. Just as you remind your child about their manners for the sleepover. it’s a good time to include your current definition of the Privates Rule. Make a point to broadcast your awareness by saying “Everyone knows about the Privates Rule” with the other parents present. You can explain this as your family rule. (“We always mention the Privates Rule when someone other than us is taking care of him.”) Remind your child that you expect them to tell you if anyone isn’t following the Privates Rule.
*After the sleepover, you’ll probably ask how it went. Tune in to your child’s reactions when you ask: “Did you have fun?” “Would you like to sleep over again?” and “What did you do?” You also should ask specifically about the Privates Rule. “Any Privates Rule moments?” Notice if their comfort level changes at all. If so, be sure to remind them it’s your job to protect them, and they need to tell you if there are any Privates Rule questions.