Question: I have a question that I'm sure is somewhere around the corner for us. What parameters does your family use for sleepovers? My inclination is to simply have my children host all of them, so that they are in the safety of our home. I'm just not sure how reasonable or unreasonable this is. I'm seeking your wisdom, since I know you're a few steps ahead of us. All of God's Blessings to your family.
Response: We would generally discourage sleepovers at someone else’s house. Since having kids sleepover at our house encourages an invitation to be extended for our kids to go to their house, we generally shy away from that as well. I’m sure that sounds extremist, but we are just trying to protect our kids. We are not fun-haters. There are lots of ways to have fun, and there are lots of ways for our kids to have fun with their friends without going on sleepovers.
When I was I kid, I lived near a wooded area, and I loved to campout. Jeff, my best friend, had severe allergies, and every time he camped out he would have a huge sniffling attack and would either go home early, or have a miserable time. As a result, we didn’t camp out much. I don’t think we did many sleepovers either. While this was mildly disappointing, do you know what? We both survived. We still did lots of other things together.
Here are some of our concerns with sleepovers:
CHILDREN LEFT TO THEMSELVES
Sometimes kids feel they need some time just to themselves so that they can have some innocent fun in the absence of adults. Some parents will fall for this. The reason kids don’t want adults around, is because they bring wisdom, discretion, and guidance to the time, and that is what dampens the fun. While kids may think it is fun to play catch with a knife, adults (at least female ones) usually know better. When children are left to themselves, bad things happen. In your own home, you can make sure that doesn’t happen. In someone else’s home that is out of you hands.
Proverbs 29:15b A child left to himself disgraces his mother.
I think another reason my friend and I didn’t campout much was because my parents knew that we were a bad influence on each other. Many people would have characterized me as a good kid, but when I was with my friends, I easily succumbed to peer pressure. We fed off of each other. The vast majority of bad things that I did as a kid were when I was away from my parents and with my friends. My first drink, first cigarette, first puff of marijuana, and first exposure to pornography were when I was away from my parents and with my friends. While you shouldn’t coddle your kids into adulthood, neither should you unnecessarily turn them over to their friends into uncontrolled environments. I remember my friends and I knocking on the neighbor’s window during a slumber party. We were trying to get a few of the girls to come out to make out with us. That was a lot of pressure for those girls to face (since we were so dashing and all). Luckily, they stood strong.
1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." NIV
Do you know what standards are held at your friend’s house, or at their neighbors’ houses? Do they have pornography, internet access, cable TV, pin-ups, or violent games? Do they keep loaded guns in the house? Fireworks? An uncovered swimming pool? Even something as simple as a dartboard can be dangerous to kids that are not aware of its dangers. While you certainly wouldn’t entrust your kids to just anyone, not every parent is going to have the discernment to know the wisdom level of YOUR kids. It is also important to realize that not every parent is who they may appear to be. One of my earliest exposures to pornography was at my friend’s friend’s home, and the magazines we eyed belonged to our school superintendent..
Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. NIV
Some people struggle with pride, some with lust, some with anger, and some even struggle with having sexual attractions toward children. Don’t think that such people are rare or easily spotted. I’ve heard many stories from people that I know, a few of which include a youth pastor, a mother, a father, a friend’s father, a female babysitter, and a stereotypical little old man. I have met most of these people, and I would not have any reason to distrust any of them, other than that I KNOW what they have done. So who can you trust? That’s a good question that is not easily answered. In light of that, I wouldn’t UNNECESSARILY entrust my kids to anyone. Life always has risks, but part of managing risk is by not taking unnecessary risks. If we have to go to a conference, then we will leave our kids with someone we trust, but we wouldn’t usually take that risk just so that our kids can have fun. We’re just trying to help protect them.
1 Corinthians 13:7a [Love] always protects. NIV
I hope that helps. I’d just take these things into consideration and pray that God leads you into standards that you think will work best for your family.