How concerned should I be letting my 3rd grade daughter sleep over at her classmate’s houses? She is constantly asking about it, and she did sleep over a few times with a few of her classmates. She’s normally the only one at the sleepover – it’s not like there are a few kids sleeping over.
Are there warning signs I should look for, or any questions I should ask her after a sleepover? Anything to look for before letting her sleep over? Would assault usually happen within first sleepover, or later?
I’m kind of freaked out every time, but she enjoys it a lot.
Sleepovers can be tricky, but there are a few things you can do to ensure a safer environment for your child:
- Don’t send her to the houses of people you have not met and pre-vetted. Invite her friend over to your house and spend time with the parents first, through activities like dinner or group outings. You can tell them in casual conversation about how you talk to your daughter about personal boundaries, safety, and prevention. Offenders generally look for easy targets, and by letting people know up front that your daughter and your family are aware and proactive, you are protecting her.
- Always ask who else will be at the house during the sleepover. If there are adults or older youth whom you do not know, you might consider offering to host the sleepover. Don’t be afraid to tell people you feel uncomfortable sending your daughter into a situation where you don’t know everyone who is going to be in the house. Also, make sure the sleeping arrangements are appropriate.
- Drop in unexpectedly at the sleepover to bring your daughter a sleeping bag or pillow, or some snacks for the kids – something that allows you to casually check the situation. This also gives your daughter the chance to talk to you if for any reason she feels unsure or uncomfortable.
- Following the sleepover, ask your daughter how the time was. Ask open ended questions to encourage her to be specific about what she did while at the sleepover. You don’t need to grill her about it. If she had a good time, she should be excited to share many of the details of her time with her friend’s family. If she seems hesitant or unwilling to discuss a portion or all of her time, it doesn’t necessarily mean there was abuse, but it does indicate that further investigation is needed.
- Have age-appropriate, ongoing talks with your child about her boundaries and what she should do if anyone tries to touch her inappropriately. Make sure she knows she can call you if anything makes her uncomfortable. If she understands up front that you are there to protect and support her, she will be more likely to come to you if something does happen.
As a parent, it’s difficult not to be nervous when sending your children into a new situation. Despite this, it’s important for them to develop healthy relationships with friends and role models. By preparing your children in advance and taking proactive steps to minimize risk, you are creating much safer environments for them to enjoy.