It is a moment that comes from nowhere but can level you within seconds…it’s the first time your little angel says “can I sleep at …’s house on the weekend”, your first reaction is pure panic followed closely by fear. How can you let your baby stay with strangers? What are these people like? Will they be safe? What if they are abused and you let them go there? These are all normal responses when you are asked this question the first time (and if I’m really honest, it doesn’t get easier the 100th time)!
Having raised two daughters I can remember specifically the first time my eldest daughter asked me this question. I’m not referring to sleeping over at a good family friend’s house or relative’s house but the first time you are asked if they can sleep at someone’s house that you don’t know.
When she did eventually stay for her first sleepover I did the following:
- I grilled her about who the child was. Kids think that someone that speaks to them for one day is their best friend. Ascertain just how much of a friend this child really is.
- Make an effort to meet the other child’s parents and clarify that they are even aware of the sleepover request (you will be surprised by how many times they aren’t). Find out about them, ask what they do for work, where they live etc. Obviously don’t interrogate but politely explain that this is the first time your child will attend a sleepover and you are nervous about it. Most normal people will completely understand. If they don’t then I suggest not letting your child attend the sleepover.
- Trust your gut instinct. If you meet the parents and your gut is screaming to back away then DO NOT ignore that.
- Ask your child’s teacher about the other child and family and explain why you are asking. They are the closest you have to the source so go directly there for information.
- Ensure the other parent has your emergency contact details and that you want them to phone if your child is even the slightest bit upset about staying over. Kids often change their minds when they actually get to the sleeping over part of the day.
- Tell your child that you are more than happy to come and pick them up at any time they are not feeling well or happy at the sleepover, no matter what time it is.
- Prepare for the worst. Ensure your child knows that nobody is allowed to touch their body in any way. Teach your child a code that is to only be used between you. Teach them that if they are in fear that someone is making them do something they know isn’t right or are scared of an adult at the premises, tell them to pretend that they are feeling really sick so that the parents call you to pick them up. Tell them that this is a safety code just for you to know that your child isn’t feeling safe but you want them to stay safe until you can get there. If you are open about this from the start your child is wise to what can happen and know how to protect themselves until you get there. Ensure they know that no matter what anyone else threatens them with, you will make sure they are safe and nothing will happen to you because they told you and that it is just threats to scare them.
This might seem extreme but it might also save you heartache at some point in the future as most abusers will threaten a child that if they tell anyone they will kill their family and that is enough to put fear into your child and stop them talking to you.
Above all else, it is your child so it is your rules. You do not have to give in because your child is crying or carrying on. Your job is to keep them safe and if you don’t feel the place they are going to is going to be safe then don’t let them go. Of course, you need to ensure you don’t become paranoid about everyone you meet and you do need to give your child the independence to stay over but you are in control of who and when this happens.
When did your child start sleepover? Comment below