In many places school is out and kids’ summer activities are getting started – riding bikes all day, pool parties, sleepovers, and summer camps. You make sure your kids are prepared with helmets and swim lessons, but have you thought about how to prepare them to be away safely overnight and have safer sleepovers?
Sleepovers are one of the exciting joys of childhood and can lead to many positive growth opportunities for children. However, with the stark reality that 90% of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know and trust, you might be wondering how you can keep your child safe while allowing them to make sleepover memories.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What does your gut say? Usually your gut reaction is correct. Pay attention to it.
- Is your kid “ready?” How old are they? Have they been away from home overnight before? How did that experience go?
- How well do you know this family? What have previous interactions been like? Can you talk with the parent(s) about any concerns or needs? If not, consider this a negative on the gut-check meter.
- What kind of adult supervision will there be and who else will be present? Will other adults be around? Older youth?
- What is the household like? Does the house itself seem safe? What are the sleeping arrangements?
- How does the family monitor internet usage? Where are the computers and video game systems located and what rules are in place? For older children and teens, consider asking about rules around cell phone usage (Are they allowed to use them at all times, in all areas of the home?). Have your own digital safety conversation with your child beforehand and include a conversation about public and permanent.
- What are your hard and fast rules? This can include everything from what video games you allow your child to play, to how you feel about adults consuming alcohol while your child is in the home. Spoiler: ‘No uninterruptible one-one-one situations with adults or other children’ should be one of your hard and fast rules!
- What safety and comfort contingencies can you put in place? Talk to your kids about different scenarios to help them feel comfortable with facing the unforeseen.
- What check-in points can you put into the mix? Maybe a call or text before bedtime? Are drop-ins okay?
Plan to talk to your child privately after the sleepover, too. Resist the urge to discuss your child’s behavior or experience with the supervising adults in front of your child. This can often pressure the child into feeling that they should report that everything was ok, even if the experience wasn’t. For instance, mom asks, “Did you have fun?” and the child feels compelled to answer, “Yes, I had fun.” Instead, spend some time asking your child about the sleepover away from the other family and their home.
- Did you enjoy yourself? How did you spend your time?
- What was your favorite part of the sleepover? What was the least favorite part? Would you want to do it again?
- Did you feel safe?
- Was there anything else that you wanted to share?
Want to share these tips with a friend or keep them for a reminder? No problem! Click here to get a free download of the checklist.
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