On the one hand, you want your children to have fun and share some special times with their friends. On the other, spending the night at someone else's house means you're not there to protect them. Are sleepovers a good idea? Two mums share their views.
Dr Karen Phillip
Sydney, New South Wales
I allowed my children to have sleepovers from primary age as long as I was assured of their safety. It can be confronting when your little one starts wanting sleepovers, but you can always sleep better when you are assured they are happy and safe.
When my children wanted a sleepover, I always insisted on meeting the other parents and visiting their home to feel confident where my children were going to be. While we may often know the parent of the other child, I felt it essential to also visit their home to ensure hygiene and safety.
I always discussed a code word (ours was grandma so it sounded normal) with my kids and would call them before lights out to say goodnight and check on them. If they used the code word, it meant they were unhappy or not comfortable, so I would tell the parent my kids’ grandma was visiting and I needed to collect them. This way, my child was never embarrassed for walking away from a sleepover and it provided a safety net for my child and me.
I believe sleepovers are an excellent way to help my children develop their independence. It can open up their world and understanding of others. After all, children believe every family is the same as theirs. When sleepovers start, they discover differences. Their world expands and this is a good thing for children. They learn to be self-sufficient, follow the other family’s rules, and understand how other families live, communicate and interact.
Sydney, New South Wales
My child doesn’t even go to a friend’s house unless I know the parent, and when I hear the word sleepover come out of my child’s mouth, the first thing that comes to my mind is sexual assault, mental abuse and rape. My answer is automatically “No”, but I will also sit them down and explain why I am against any sleepovers and educate them on signs they need to watch out for.
I was brought up not to trust any man as you never know their intentions. This was not to stop me from forming relationships with men but to understand that some men may have a paedophilic tendency. I will not let my child enter a vulnerable position that could lead to lifelong psychological sessions, medications or even destroy their quality of life, all because of a silly sleepover.
To me, sleepovers are unnecessary for children. They are not old enough to notice or distinguish behaviour that is not within the normal limits. Children are sensitive, innocent and a God-given blessing and I don't take this lightly. I do not conduct sleepovers at my house either as it would be hypocritical of me to do so.
I come from a very tight Italian family and the only time I slept at anyone's home was with my parents at a holiday home with other family members, aunties, uncles and cousins. Today, we allow all our children to bunk up together in one room when our family go on holidays with my sister’s family and our parents.