A reader writes:
Can you talk about sleepovers? I don’t like to send my kids to them and just prefer that everyone could sleep at night instead of having parties. I’m talking for my 6 year old and 4 year old. I get queasy. And not actually just sleepover parties, but even just overnights with friends and even cousins. I have had some negative responses when I say that I don’t really like sleepovers and would prefer to just have the kids play in the day time…am I stunting my child’s development? Over-reacting to fears? On the right track? Neither? Is there a good guideline for age that it is going to make me less queasy? Thanks!
The very first knee jerk thought that comes to mind is this: Who cares what other Wemmicks think about your choices? What you do with your kids is your business, and no one else’s. So if you and your husband decide that you aren’t comfortable with pajama parties, that’s perfectly fine. If someone has a problem with it, they’ll have to stew. Chances are that people like that will stew no matter WHAT you or anyone else does. That’s what stewing people do. They’d lose their purpose in life if you took those opportunities away from them. Am I being sarcastic? Yes, I am. Anyone stewing?
Now that I have THAT off my chest, let’s seriously talk about this issue, because I’ve had this conversation with friends many times over the years. My husband and I have had this conversation as our children have gotten older. I’ll give you my take, and maybe it will be somewhat useful when it comes time to make your own choices.
Are sleep-overs prohibited in the Bible?
Um. No. Well, I take that back. Sleep-overs with people of the opposite sex who are not your spouse ARE prohibited. But we’re talking about kids here, and hopefully same-sex pajama parties—especially as they get older.
The fact that the Bible doesn’t say, “Thou Shalt Not Sleep Over at One Another’s Abodes” doesn’t mean you won’t use Scripture to help you make your own decision. You could find principles in the Bible that might cause you to say “yes” for one sleep-over and “no” for another.
The other variable is what KIND of sleep-over you’re talking about. Is it a camping trip with a bunch of dads and their sons? A special week end away at a B & B with several moms and daughters? Where you have a lot of adult supervision and structure, you have control over negative junk. That takes any potential harm out of the picture, obviously.
This point about variables might seem like a no-brainer, but there are folks who take what might be a good rule and apply it no matter what. Why? It’s simple. You don’t have to use your brain that way. That kind of simplistic application and thinking also infuriates older kids because they see right through how ridiculous it is. Don’t drive your kids batty. They want to learn how to think. In order to teach them, you need to be actively doing it yourself.
I think the concern comes in when we are talking about a group of young people who are minimally supervised or supervised by an adult who is a secret pervert. And based on my experience of over 20 years talking with women from all kinds of background, secret perverts are aplenty. In your neighborhood. In your extended family. Even in your church. Maybe even in your home.
It’s a sad fact. This world is a cesspool of rot and corruption. I don’t think we are supposed to be afraid, but I do think we are supposed to be discerning. You know. Avoid the Ostrich-Head-In-The-Sand way of life. If you’re an ostrich, you might lift your head one day and find out the sand wasn’t such a good place to hang out for so long.
Here are some facts about sexual abuse taken from the Darkness to Light website (please see their website for all original source links and more information):
- About one in seven girls and one in 25 boys is sexually abused before they turn 18.
- About 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser.Only 10% of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger.
- About 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by people the family trusts.
- As many as 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older, or more powerful children.
- Most sexual abuse of children occurs in a residence, typically that of the victim or perpetrator – 84% for children under age 12, and 71% for children aged 12 to 17.
- Age is a significant factor in sexual abuse. While there is risk for children of all ages, children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of seven and 13.
Almost every single college student I worked with when I was on staff with a student ministry had been sexually abused multiple times growing up. I have many friends who have sexual abuse in their background. It isn’t something to sniff at.
How We’ve Handled the Sleep-Over Issue.
This issue came up very early on for us because my sisters and I all started our families within one year of each other. And we all had boys. By the time the little cousins were 3, my mom (Grandma) wanted to host a “Cousin’s Camp” in her home. Overnight. I think the little guys stayed there for two nights that first year, and “camp” extended to 4 nights as they got older.
We didn’t have a problem with this. I grew up in a healthy Christian family with no sexual or physical abuse. I knew my parents. And I also knew my mother. She is a control freak, like me. She runs a VERY structured cousin’s camp. There were no shenanigans in the middle of any night. They slept in the room right next to my parents and camped on the floor. And when I say they slept, it’s because they SLEPT.
When the cousins grew in number and girls came along, Cousin’s Camp became segregated according to gender. Now she ran two separate cousin’s camps. And as MORE cousins came along, she even broke up the boy’s camp into two age groups. The older boys had a separate camp from the younger ones.
So you can see that under these type of circumstances, the “sleep-overs” were not a problem or concern. Cousin’s camp is now a thing of the past, but the kids have some great memories. I’m glad we didn’t just make a blanket decision for NO SLEEPOVERS AT ANY TIME WHATSOEVER.
When one of our sons turned 10 we had a surprise birthday party for him, and guess what? It included a sleep-over. Why? Some of the boys lived quite a distance from our house, and we had church the next day. It just made sense to have them spend the night so we could take them to church where they could meet up again with their families.
My husband set up “camp” with the boys in the basement – and we invited other dads to participate as well, although no one took us up on that.
Our older daughter has been invited on rare occasions to sleepovers where we have said, “no.” At other times we have said “yes.” It all depends on who it is, where it is, what the purpose is, and so forth. We have never let our younger girls sleep over at anyone’s home.
Final Musings From My Childhood
I remember sleeping over quite a bit growing up. Especially in my teen years. Some of my friends were very moral, although not Christians. And some were border-line. I remember some of them wanting to call up the dead using candles. I was a bossy sort and not afraid to tell them “no.” But we did listen to music and talk about things I knew my parents would not approve of. I felt guilty about that. I know my sisters had worse experiences at some of the sleepovers they went to growing up. Thank goodness none of us experienced any kind of abuse, but the potential was certainly there.
In addition, children can be introduced to ideas etc. that a parent may not want them to know about just yet. Sometimes what you might consider OK for one child who is strong in their faith and more of an influencer, you may NOT consider OK for a child who is more of a pushover or susceptible to secrecy, deception, or fear of others.
So what’s the bottom line? I think you’ll need to take it one step at a time and make those kinds of decisions as you go along—always aware of the risks involved. Once abuse has taken place, you can’t go back. The destruction is life-long. That said, not every situation will pose a threat. Only you can best determine that in any given circumstance.
I will say this. Don’t make your decisions based on fear of what other people might think. You are an intelligent adult capable of making your own choices and sticking to them. If someone scoffs at you, that says more about them than it does about you. It says they don’t have honor for others. It says they think highly of themselves and lowly of everyone else. Feel sorry for them and then forget about it.