An article called Reconsidering Sleepovers from LDSLiving.com popped up on my newsfeed the other day along with plenty of debate in the comments. Essentially, the article outlined several reasons why we should stop doing sleepovers, mostly citing the potential for sexual abuse and moral corruption. And I’ve got to tell you—I agree.
However, several people expressed some “but-but-buts” on the matter.
But… the chances of something bad happening are slim.
True. There’s also a slim chance of getting in a car accident and an even slimmer chance that it’ll be worse than a fender bender. And yet we still wear seatbelts because serious accidents do happen. We’re not willing to throw caution to the wind there. But sure, stick your child in a dark, foreign place in the middle of the night with people you know, but maybe don’t know? Eh, sure. Sexual abuse doesn’t happen that often, right? But it does happen. A lot more often than people give it credit for. I’m going to go out on a ledge and say that sexual abuse is a bigger deal than getting hurt in a car accident. The body can heal, but the mind can’t really undo the damage that sexual abuse incurs. Sleepovers are a gamble on your child’s innocence—are you really willing to take your chances on that?
But… I always trust the other parents/family completely.
I’m sure you do. But let me throw out some stats and perpetrator profiling. A study in 2000 found that 93% of sexually abused juveniles (ages 0-17) knew their perpetrator. We’re talking family members or acquaintances. That’s a crazy majority. So how does that even work out? How do perpetrators get away with sexually abusing someone who knows them? You see, therein actually lies their power.
In the first place, in order for a perp to successfully sexually abuse a kid, the perp has to be nice. Convincingly nice. They need the child to have absolutely no reservations about being with them. They need the child to think they are legitimately awesome. This is called grooming—the perp slowly draws the child in and gains his/her trust. The child may not be the only one being groomed. Parents are too. If the parents don’t have a certain amount of trust in the perp, the sexual abuse wouldn’t happen. Perps aren’t given quite enough credit for their cunningness. They are tricky. You can’t assume that you wouldn’t be won over by a perp. It’s not a game for them, so you better believe they’re going to pull out all the stops.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sexual abuse perps aren’t just adults. Kids sexually abuse too. The same study I mentioned above found that in sexually abused kids younger than 11, 40% were abused by someone under the age of 17. That’s a pretty big chunk. So it’s not just adults you have to account for at a sleepover. You also need to consider other attendees of the sleepover, the host child’s siblings, and maybe even siblings’ friends.
But… you can’t shelter your children from everything.
Of course you can’t. While you’re at it, get rid of bike helmets, don’t bother telling them to not play in the road, and maybe if you’re lucky they’ll get the chance to take candy from strangers. Yeah, you can’t shelter kids from every bad thing out there. But that doesn’t mean you should disregard safety. Not letting your kids out of the house is a sheltering overkill, but eliminating sleepovers definitely isn’t. It’s just safety.
But… you just need to have faith that your kids will be ok and make good choices.
I completely understand that worrying about every potential evil your kid could come in contact with doesn’t accomplish much. There are some things you have to put in God’s hands and not worry about anymore because you can’t control everything. But faith includes action. You do what you can, then leave the rest to God. Every day I pray that my family and I will be safe, but we still buckle up when we go somewhere. Is this a lack of faith? No. A lack of faith would be to hermit up and never leave the house. Eliminating sleepovers is a far cry from locking your kids away from the world. As I’ve said before, it’s a safety measure.
It’s good to give kids the opportunity to make good choices. But that doesn’t mean you should knowingly put them in a compromising situation. And yes, I’d say no adult supervision in the middle of the night is a compromising situation regardless of the kids and their ages. Kids get plenty of opportunities to make choices, and eliminating sleepovers isn’t going to deprive them of lessons they can’t learn elsewhere.
But… I went to sleepovers as a kid and they were so much fun.
Here’s where I disclose that I went to many a sleepover growing up. And nothing bad ever happened to me at a sleepover. And I never did anything worse than streaking across the high school football field at 3 a.m. And I had a lot of fun. I was a pretty mellow child and teenager, but I know I would have been outraged if I’d not been allowed to attend sleepovers.
But what good do sleepovers accomplish? Best case scenario is a desperate lack of sleep and a rousing game of Truth or Dare. That’s the stuff of memories? Is it really a tradition worth upholding? I feel like if we want to provide lasting childhood memories for our kids, we can do one better than sleepovers. It’s ok for kids to do something super fun and then go home. Saying that you can’t have a fun childhood without sleepovers is like saying you can’t have a good time without alcohol.
I’m not going to let my kids have or attend sleepovers. I’m actually hoping sleepovers are a thing of the past by then. If not, I’m going to use it as an opportunity to teach them that sometimes the popular thing isn’t the right thing. I won’t give into peer pressure, and neither should they.
If you’re interested in more:
There was a General Conference talk from a few years ago called Courageous Parenting. (Spoiler alert: He warns against sleepovers.)