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What About Sleep-Overs?

Filed in Parenting by on December 18, 2013

What About Sleep-Overs?

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.

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About the Contributor

Natalie Klejwa is a Wemmick, loved by the Woodcarver, wife of 22 years to Joe, and mother to 9 Wemmicks ages 2-20. She is a business owner (Apple Valley Natural Soap), founder and administrator of the Visionary Womanhood blog, publisher and contributing author of Three Decades of Fertility, and a contributing author of The Heart of Simplicity: Foundations for Christian Homemaking and You Can Do It Too: 25 Homeschool Families Share Their Stories. You can hear her being interviewed on Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision radio program. Follow Natalie on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +. View all posts by Natalie →

Comments (19)

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  1. Ashley says:

    I let my two boys on a couple of occasions sleep over at friends’. It was very rare and I never felt really good about it. When my daughter was born we moved. For some reason, in our new community sleepovers were more rampant. God spoke to me clearly that I needed to not participate and so now my rule is no sleepovers unless the child stays at our house. Then at least I feel like I can supervise.

    I have caught a lot of flack from my kids on this rule, especially from the older two who did it in the past and now cannot do it. However, I explained that I felt like The Lord was protecting them from something and I’d be foolish to not listen to what I clearly heard from Him. Sometimes you just have to stick to your feelings. Sometimes my kids have been left out of parties due to my rule, but I have to trust that that is the best decision. They do spend the night at my mother’s house on occasion.

  2. Lisa Whitehead says:

    Thanks for this article. It was really well written – I also am of the mind, if you are doing right by your kids, who cares what others think.
    It is far more important to me what God thinks and to teach my kids what is approriate.
    And as you say, what is appropriate is based on each situation.

    When my youngest was invited to a sleepover at 5 years of age, I said no. It was a party and he went for the evening and then I picked him up for bedtime and took him back for breakfast – we didn’t live far away so that was easy.

    They were people we didn’t know all that well and what goes on behind closed doors can be anyones guess, so we played it safe.
    There are others I would let them go to, but the rates of abuse are so high I am very careful about where they go.
    Thanks again.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I think your article is well thought out from a variety of angles and I appreciate that you emphasize that it’s not a “one size fits all” type of solution. Great thoughts!

    I’m curious to know if you explained to your children why you said “no” at times? We have a 9 year old that very much wants to understand our decision making in general. When a sleepover comes up, we try to be very careful to not speak poorly of the people that have invited her. But truthfully, we say “no” to certain times because of the lack of trust we have with that family – even though we love them deeply. We want her to understand, but we don’t want her to walk away with a negative impression of them either. We’ve struggled with knowing what to tell her at times.

  4. jennie herbranson says:

    This is a very important subject and parents need to be vigilant and responsible. When I was raising my children, the opinions of others never entered in to my decisions. In spite of the fact that I was “narrow minded” in this area of sleep-overs, my daughters had negative situations arise. One happened to my youngest, who was about 6 yrs. at the time, and in MY OWN HOME. I went in to the bedroom a short time after I had put them to bed, because I could hear giggling. (The friend was a neighbor, we knew her mother well, and she was a girl.) They were under the covers and when I turned on the light and asked what they were doing… and the little girl said,”Looking at pee pees.” They both looked embarrassed, so there was no doubt they knew it was wrong. I didn’t hesitate to let them know how wrong it was. Even though we continued to have the little girl in our home (she was at our home more than her own)..there was never another sleep-over. When my 2nd daughter was in 6th grade, one of her best friends had a sleep-over. The next day I learned the girls sat before the fireplace and called out demons, etc. My daughter went and sat in another room until they were done, as she knew it was wrong. (I wish she would have called to come home… but even sitting in another room was very hard for her to do and I was very happy for her convictions.) My point??? You can never be too careful… Thanks for covering this topic.

  5. Kerrie says:

    Thanks for ur wonderful insight on this topic, Natalie. My youngest is still too young to participate is ANY sleepovers, but with regard to my older two, I pretty much handled the requests, through the years, on a case-by-case basis, as you suggest. As you know, all three of my children are girls. I’m commenting, though, to let you know that your blog today did prompt me to have a conversation, with my 13-year-old daughter, with regard to the subject of the sexual abuse statistics you pointed out. Of course, we’v had conversations about things to be aware of, in broader, age-appropriate terms, but your article made me realize we hadn’t had such a conversation in a while, and considering how very much Mads has matured in the last year–especially emotionally–I found this an excellent opportunity to talk with her, about this subject, in more depth. Even though, Greg and I, still only allow the rare sleepover, with family members, or close friends, whose parents we know very well, the statistics gave us an opportunity to discuss the subject of the prevalence of sexual abuse, in a much broader sense. So thank you, once again, for an informative, well balanced and researched article.

  6. Kim says:

    Both myself and my husband had negative experiences at sleepovers growing up. We know lots of others who have had bad experiences at sleepovers as well. In general, we feel the potential for bad outweighs whatever good would come of them. So, unless there is a real need to leave them overnight, we don’t.
    We have sleepovers as a family ( myself, my husband, and our kids) in our room where the kids get to bring sleeping bags, games, etc and I make special treat bags. The kids LOVE it! Usually I even send them an invitation, which they think is great. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Just different. We feel like this is a special bonding time as a family and shows the kids we want them to be able to do fun things and in fact we can do fun things with them! They accept the no sleepover rule and understand it’s for their protection. They don’t have to know all the details. They’ll understand more as they get older. And they really don’t feel deprived. (We have also had family sleepovers before with another close family, but each family has their own room.) All of this to say, so long as we feel the need to say “no” to sleepovers, we try to find something fun we can say “yes” to as a “substitute”. So far, this has worked well for us. And we’re making lots of great memories in the process! :)
    On a side note, we are getting ready to make a trip to see family. In the past, when my son was younger, we would allow him to sleep in the same bedroom as his cousin. One night his cousin (age 6 at the time) shared too much with my son about the death of his father (who had been shot to death), as they were lying in bed at night. This was disturbing to my son and didn’t come out til later. No, this was not the most horrid thing that could happen, but it opened our eyes to the fact that kids will talk about things at night that they might not talk about in the day.

    So, the cousin sleepovers are ending now too. This is a bit more difficult because it’s family. (It seems it would have been better to have not allowed it earlier.) But we are learning. And again, we have to do what we believe is best for our kids. Extended family doesn’t really understand but we’re not accountable to them.

    So, for what it’s worth, there’s another family’s take on sleepovers. :)

    • jennie herbranson says:

      Great ideas and a wonderful way to deal w/a touchy subject for others to accept. Any time you take a stand for something other parents don’t agree with they seem to get defensive, instead of learning from it.

  7. Frances says:

    If you want a 20-year old’s perspective, my parents very rarely allowed me to go to sleepovers as a kid. I went to a private Christian school at the time, and the girls in my class would frequently have slumber parties for their birthdays. I was allowed to go for the party part, but once it got late, my mom would take me home. At the time I kind of resented it, but looking back, I know it was for the best. I’m sure no one got any sleep at those “slumber” parties, and I need my sleep. They were also usually watching movies or listening to music that was inappropriate, so I was saved from that.
    Certainly my parents allowed me to have one or two close girl friends over to our house to spend the night, but even though we probably stayed up and talked when we shouldn’t have, there were no wild shenanigans or anything. :) Looking back on it, I’m glad my parents protected me, even if I complained at the time.

  8. Annie Kate says:

    Yes, every situation is different. I feel very hesitant about sending girls to sleep overs in families with older brothers, or having sleepovers with only one girl. There’s safety from abuse in numbers.

    My kids are 11 and up, so we’ve dealt with this many times.

    Although I really prefer no sleepovers, we do have them with cousins when we visit (once every few years) and a group of teen girls involving my daughters, all very nice, sometimes have them–often at our home. My son and his friends have had a few, but no longer do so, and I’m totally happy about that.

    But with my youngest we’re coming up to a potential sleepover situation some year that will be uncomfortable, because I’ll say ‘no’.

    Note also that you don’t need a sleepover to have abuse happen.
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  9. Megyn says:

    I never questioned sleepovers until recently (some of my favorite childhood memories are of sleepovers, and I looked forward to my kids having the same experiences, as well as hosting them in my home). That was until my husband and I heard someone speak on the topic – a man who leads a sexual sin recovery ministry. We learned that the average age of exposure to pornography is age 8, and that the most common place where this happens is….sleepovers. We have awhile before this becomes an issue for us (our first baby is 8 months old) but it’s caused us to rethink it completely. I’m not sure that we’ll have a “no sleepovers, period” policy in our home, but we will definitely approach each instance with caution and intentionality.

  10. Sarah Godwin says:

    Thanks for covering this. It has not been an issue for us yet, but one of my seven-year-old’s friends is going on a trip and her mother invited my daughter to go along. I am uncomfortable with it for several reasons and my husband and I have begun talking about how to handle sleepovers and overnight trips with friends. One dear friend handles it with a blanket rule prohibiting all sleepovers. I’m leaning more toward my parents’ approach, which allowed sleepovers in selected situations and never when my parents did not know the other parents well. Anyway, as always, I appreciate your thoughtful insights, including different angles and possibilities.

  11. Heather says:

    My family dabbled with sleep-overs this past year. At first, our 9 yo son spent the night at a school friend’s house, then the friend came to our home to spend the night. My husband was stunned by this child’s lack of respect for authority. He actually had to tell this boy that he was lucky his wife (me) hadn’t heard him speak to Him (DH) in the manner he had, otherwise he would be on his way home immediately.

    After this mini-disaster, I began to really remember the sleepovers I had been on when I was a girl. Then it hit me… I am ashamed of the “fun” I had at these people’s homes! My mother would have been mortified if she knew the antics I had gotten into! I realized that there is no way that I wanted my children to be in my shoes, especially when this new generation is pushing boundaries and behavior to whole new levels of debauchery.

    So, DH and I spoke at some length about it. Since he had never had sleepovers, he accepted my experiences as valuable information. We decided that sleepovers would be family only and hosted at the grandparents mainly.

    Why the grandparents? Because everyone trusts them. The opportunity for false allegations or inappropriate cousin behavior are reduced dramatically. They’re the ultimate Old School. Also, grandparents love to spoil the grandchildren. So even if the cousins aren’t allowed to hang at the mall or go night hiking, they will have huge, amazing, home cooked meals and treats, lots of game playing and movie watching.

    Plus… DH and I could possibly get together with sibling/in-laws and do a double date sans kids!!!! Hallelujah! I see steak dinners and theatrical entertainment without curfews on the horizon!!!

  12. I’m loving all the examples, ideas, and insights on this subject from you! It’s been fun to “hear” from some who have never posted here before too. I truly enjoy getting to know you a little better. Thank you for taking some time to share here! :)
    Natalie Klejwa recently posted…What About Sleep-Overs?My Profile

  13. We let our boys go to sleepovers. At first, it was for necessity (staying with Aunties while I had c-sections and then because of intense medical appts. for one of the kids). Now I allow the boys to sleepover at 2 family friends’ houses and then our parents and siblings’ houses. We love the families and trust them (obviously)… the boys love the experience and I love that they love it.

    I grew up going to a lot of sleepovers and they were one of the highlights of my childhood. Nothing bad ever happened at them (honestly we would do the most dangerous things in the daylight… usually riding our bikes)… once it was dark and we were inside the room, it was time to talk and play “what if” and sing to our favorite songs/watch movies/paint our nails.
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  14. Hailey says:

    This was a great read….and I appreciate your approach. I tend to be all or nothing, so I like the idea of taking it situation by situation. My 7 year old oldest daughter was repeatedly invited to sleepovers. I kindly explained “it’s not you, its us….” By taking a moment to have the conversation in a non threatning way it works great…..and they don’t ever ask again!!!

  15. My daughter is 11 and this is the first year she has went on any sleepovers. I consider myself very strict and ask a good ten million questions and I ALWAYS SAY NO the first dozen or so times she hangs out with her friends so that our family can get to know them and she can get better acquainted with their family and their home. I always ask questions like “who lives there?” “how many siblings do they have?” “did they feed you? what did you have, what time was it?”

    I was raped when I was my daughters age and it was in the early evening in our Canadian winter so it was dark out. The guy was my friends older brother, so using sexual abuse as a reason in itself isn’t really all that great considering this happens during the day too. Monsters don’t only creep at night.

    That said I have not allowed my daughter to spend the night at any home where a man or boy was present. I have allowed her to stay later than her regular bedtime and picked her up around the time the kids would be changing into their pajamas. She doesn’t protest because she is very concerned about her modesty as well (WIN!!!) and this way she isn’t missing out on the party part and is still sleeping at home in her own bed.

    My son is 9 and he has been invited to several sleep overs (all boys including the parent) however my son has actually asked if I would pick him up around midnight or a little earlier depending on what time the parent says they intend to end the fun, so he can sleep in his own bed. My son is also very modest and he doesn’t want to change his clothing at someone elses home. I suspect that in the next few years he may want to take his friends up on the sleep over offers and it will depend on the family and whether or not there are girls in the home of similar age.

    I do not believe that my son or daughter should be showing their pj’s to anyone of the opposite sex outside of our home.

    I do speak openly with my children about the acts of some people and what their thoughts may be when they look at them etc even if they are dressed modestly and we have a very open relationship when it comes to talking about things that make one another uncomfortable etc. For instance, a boy at school was stroking my daughters hair, she came home and asked me to please speak to the principal about it because she felt it inappropriate. I am happy that the kids are not afraid to come to me about these things and I hope as they age our communication stays open.

    I believe that if you explain your reasoning to your children they will feel like they are being shown respect and will respect your decisions in return. While this isn’t always the case I feel that when it comes to making their own decisions that my honesty with them will help them to come to a decision they won’t regret.
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  16. tereza crump says:

    I really liked the way you wrote this post. Your first reaction is pretty much how I deal with everything in our family. :)

    One of the reasons we homeschool is to protect our children and be in control of when and how they learn certain topics. As a Christian mom I feel I was not well protected when I was a kid. I was exposed to a lot of things that were evil and could have been avoided if my parents were more careful. I am not trying to put blame on anyone. It’s all under the blood. My parents weren’t Christians then and didn’t know any better. They did the best they could. Just like I am doing now. :)

    Anyway, just like you I have based my decisions on my growing up experiences too. So, my kids do not participate in sleep overs. When they are invited to one or their friends mention it, they know to say “We don’t do sleep overs. We sleep at home with our parents.” To my kids I tell them that God has given us, their parents, the responsibility to take care of them. How can I take care of them if they are in someone else’s house and I am not there.

    I feel it’s the parents’ responsibility to watch over their own kids. I never send them to other people’s house to play, or put them under a friend’s charge to watch over them while they are at the park/ game/ pool. My husband and I prefer to be the ones taking care of them. I know my kid well. I know what could be a threat to his life or dangerous behavior/ play.

    We have had a couple of situations when my parents and / or a trusted babysitter watched over them for a couple of hours at our home. I can count on my fingers how many times that happened. I really only do it for the sake of “date time” with my husband. We make sure that whoever is taking care of our kids understand our values and what’s allowed at our house. I know my home will always be safer for my kids. I know what I got at home.

    I was exposed to pornography at a relative’s home. I remember we, the cousins (10 y.o. and under), were all in a bedroom reading the mags while the adults were in the dining room next door talking and laughing. No one was ever aware of what we were doing. That was not the first time. That happened again at a friend’s home, at school etc.

    I know there will be a time when my kids will be able and have to fend for themselves and have a stronger voice to resist temptation or protect themselves, but I feel that 10 y.o. and under is still too young for that.

    I am very protective of my kids and just like to keep them with me. I don’t feel comfortable sending any of them to a play date without me or their father present. It’s just how it is. Most of my friends know that and don’t invite our kids over or to go places without including us the parents. They do send their kids to our home unsupervised all the time. And that’s their choice. I do my best to take care of them like they are my own and have no problem asking them to call their parents to ask for permission to watch a movie or play a game they are not sure of.

    I remember one time we went to a drive in and my daughter’s friend came with us. During the previews they showed a demonic movie and I called my daughter and her friend to come in the car and turn their heads away from the screen until the preview was over. I know the friend thought I was pretty weird but for my daughter that was normal to turn her head away from anything evil or ugly looking shown on Tv/ movie.

    We have had situations before where we were watching a movie as a family and had to shut it off because it was completely inappropriate for my kids. Would that have happened if they were in someone else’s home? Probably not.

    I say one can never be to careful. The Bible says to be vigilant at all times and pray without ceasing. I do what I feel is best for my family. :)

    It’s really hard to get those ugly, dirty images out of your head once it’s in there. I know. :(
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    • Kim says:

      Teresa,

      I have to agree with you here. We prefer to stay together as a family as well so we have lots of family friends. We host a lot of family get togethers (our family with other families) to eat, fellowship and play games together and everyone loves it.

  17. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this. I grew up in a Christian home, and while I was never exposed to pornography in my own home, I was heavily exposed to it at friends’ homes at, (of course) overnighters. I was eight years old the first time. My “friend” showed me all sorts of trash, then proceeded to inform me all about strippers and various other sexual exploits. I remember saying I wanted to go home and my mom came and got me.

    The same situation happened at various homes with various friends over the years. By age 17, I had been heavily exposed to the very worst type of trash there is. I never told my parents. It would kill them because they did such a good job protecting me.

    All that happened before there was internet use. Now, with computers, iphones and smart Tv’s, I’m even more hesitant to send my children ANYWHERE if there isn’t a VERY CLOSE RELATIONSHIP and like-minded views with the other parents, even for just daytime playdates. Any place that could possibly have unguarded internet is IMMEDIATELY off the table. We still have yet to do overnighters aside from grandparents who are strong believers with heavy internet protection.

    I agree with the lady who said that nobody needs to see our kids in their pajamas outside of the family. Well stated. It’s just not appropriate for some dad to see my going-through-puberty daughter in pajamas. No thanks.

    Great article. Thanks.
    ~Michelle
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