≡ Menu

Slumbering Dilemma

Years ago when our children were very young, my husband and I made a family decision to not allow sleepovers or slumber parties. There wasn’t a particular incident that spurred this decision — only that neither of us could remember anything particularly uplifting about the sleepovers in our childhoods, and felt uneasy about allowing our children into the homes of some of their friends. Rather than making case-by-case decisions, we figured it would be easiest to just have this as a family rule and make it much easier on ourselves. Thus, our family rule became “No sleepovers or slumber parties. If we are invited to a slumber party we can accept a ‘late night’ invitation instead.”

This has worked out really well over the years. My children have been invited to these events, of course, but as soon as we state our family rule, it has been accepted and my children’s friends still invite them over for play dates or late night activities. We don’t generally allow overnight friends at our home either, other than a few exceptions when someone has asked if we could watch their children while they are out of town.

Rather than debating the evil or non-evil of slumber parties (yes, I do know that kids can in trouble at other events — including broad daylight; and yes, I do know that some slumber parties are totally above board). I would like to share this quote by Elder Larry Lawrence from one of my favorite talks of all time, “Courageous Parenting,” and then share with you a funny experience we just had with sleepovers. First, the quote. (I must say, I felt a bit validated when Elder Lawrence said this:) 

May I express my personal warning about a practice that is common in many cultures. I am referring to sleepovers, or spending the night at the home of a friend. As a bishop I discovered that too many youth violated the Word of Wisdom or the law of chastity for the first time as part of a sleepover. Too often their first exposure to pornography and even their first encounter with the police occurred when they were spending the night away from home.

Peer pressure becomes more powerful when our children are away from our influence and when their defenses are weakened late at night. If you have ever felt uneasy about an overnight activity, don’t be afraid to respond to that warning voice inside. Always be prayerful when it comes to protecting your precious children.

A few weeks ago, one of my daughters received an invitation to a birthday party. It was a slumber party, and it was at the home of our stake president.

At first, my instinct was just to stick to the family rule. Then, I waffled a bit and argued with myself about my reasons for having this rule — and it boiled down to protecting my kids. Did I feel my kids would be protected at my stake president’s house? Well, yes. So, I nearly gave in. But then we discussed it in family home evening and decided to stick with the family rule. It was a family decision, and our reasoning was that we should be consistent no matter who is extending the invitation. I explained to the kids, “While we might trust you to be at the (stake president’s) house, we aren’t sure that every home is as secure. It’s easiest just to have a consistent rule and stick with it.” Besides, I knew there would be other girls at the party who had extended an invitation and we had said no. It’s not really fair to those good families to say, in essence, “We trust our kids at the stake president’s house, but not at yours.” So, we accepted a late night invitation and let them know we would pick our daughter up around midnight.

When my daughter got home from the party, she said she had fun but was a little disappointed that she couldn’t stay. I asked her if anyone asked why she had to leave and she said that they did. Her response to them was, “Well, my mom just doesn’t trust everyone.”

I laughed with the stake president’s wife about this later. My daughter had essentially told them that we didn’t trust them! I kind of wanted to crawl under a rock, but once I explained it to her all was well, she understood our decision, and respected it.

So what do you think about sleepovers/slumber parties? I am interested to hear other opinions!

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • MB December 19, 2011, 8:42 am

    I think that the key point of Elder Lawrence’s talk is this:
    “If you have ever felt uneasy about an overnight activity, don’t be afraid to respond to that warning voice inside. Always be prayerful when it comes to protecting your precious children.”

    My husband and I are fully aware of the challenges and potentially damaging aspects of overnight stays due to the experiences of friends and relatives of ours who have dealt with some really difficult results of those. However, we have not established a uniform blanket policy. Instead we have some general guidelines, do our homework, talk to our children about the reality of sleep-deprived, early-hours inability to think wisely, and absolutely respond to the “warning voice inside” that he refers to. As a result of those guidelines and practices, we do have a friend overnight occasionally and we have occasionally supported a child of ours staying with a well known friend. After 20 years of these guidelines I have found the following patterns emerge: that co-ed sleepovers are always denied, that large group sleep-overs are frequently denied (otherwise, Girls Camp would be off the table), that sleepovers where there are older siblings are carefully considered on a case by case visit, and if and when the Spirit says even the slightest “heads up”, even if it’s a family we know and trust, we pay attention and arrange an early pick-up or an alternate activity.

    It works with our particular group of children mostly because we don’t make any excuse other than, “I know you’d like to but I don’t feel right about it and I have a personal policy that if I don’t feel it’s right, I won’t sanction it”. And though they may not be happy about it, they generally don’t argue a lot about honest spiritual promptings and they appreciate the fact that we are aware enough of their feelings t0 try to work out something else that they would find enjoyable, even if it isn’t exactly what they envisioned.

  • Shari O December 19, 2011, 10:07 am

    My boys are 30+ years old now. I KNOW the dangers of sleepovers (now.) I wasn’t a member of the Church at the time my young sons wanted to go to sleepovers, and had never heard anyone talking about there being dangers. Let me just say that I wish now that I had. When someone actually comes out in General Conference and mentions it, you know that they are serious. “No sleepovers” is a great rule. I hope parents will be like you and have the courage to stick with it. That way, you won’t look back with regrets, on that principle, anyway.

  • Jennie Bradfield December 19, 2011, 10:14 am

    I love to hear other families with the same policy as ours. I have 3 children in their 20’s and allowed sleepovers too liberally with them. I discovered later that as teens a lot of mischief and some very bad decisions were made while my kids were under others roofs. Not all parents, even those we may like and trust supervise their kids activities well. We have a caboose child who is now 10 and I made a blanket rule that there are no sleepovers and there is no argument she knows she can’t and usually tells her friends without even asking. Right now at her age there is probably very little risk of trouble at a sleepover but as she moves into the teen years I believe this policy will save a lot of temptation and possible trouble and having it well established since she was small will hopefully save a lot arguments. I literally cheered out loud when watching conference and heard Elder Lawrence’s talk. I find I am a much more “courageous parent” now having walked this road already once I want to make sure I am not looking back wishing I had done things differently.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 19, 2011, 1:45 pm

    I have to say I’m a bit annoyed. The old For the Strength of Youth pamphlet didn’t say anything about this — thankfully leaving it up to parents.

    The new version says this:

    Avoid situations that invite increased temptation, such as late-night or overnight activities away from home or activities where there is a lack of adult supervision.

    I’m going to read the “where there is a lack of adult supervision” as the conditional. But I know a gazillion LDS parents will read it to mean never have sleepover and never have late nights.

    I’d agree that sleepovers are almost never adequately supervised — and scout campouts are no exception — but late nights often are highly supervised.

    P.S. I think this new guideline will hurt YW again and won’t change any overnight activities the scouts have.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Long Memory for SarcasmMy Profile

  • jennycherie December 20, 2011, 5:29 am

    “P.S. I think this new guideline will hurt YW again and won’t change any overnight activities the scouts have.”

    I see your point – it won’t change anything for us. The only overnight the YW have ever had is girl’s camp. Oh, and Youth Conference!

    We don’t have a firm rule, and we have done more sleepovers out of necessity (when I was working at night and my husband/son had a campout with Scouts) than for fun. My main rule, involving any type of playing with friends, is that I need to know and speak to an actual adult who is in charge the child in question before we can invite or respond to an invitation.

    Also, the last two sleepovers my girls had (both out of necessity), they were a pain in the neck to get out of their friends’ house the next morning, so we’ve been having a little recess in sleepovers. I had promised that we could invite friends over for a sleepover on Thanksgiving break, but after they were misbehaving, we’ve had to delay. Maybe before the end of Christmas break.

    One more thing – in addition to having sleepovers of necessity, we’ve invited a couple of little girls over out of kindness. They have a difficult life, sometimes no hot water in their house, always mom is sick, so we invite them over (with and without sleepovers) just to let them have some time off from being ‘little adults’ and to let them have a warm bath in a warm room. BUT, I generally don’t let them stay up any later than I do in any circumstance.
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

  • Tracy Polyak December 20, 2011, 8:40 am

    Angie, this is a great topic. Thank you so much for bringing up this important subject. My oldest being only 6yo, I haven’t yet made up my mind on this subject.

    I want to respond to Jennie’s comment that 10yo is probably not an age where you have to worry about sleepovers. I went to a couple of sleepovers when I was that age, and they were horrible experiences. I was not a child that was very popular, so I was so excited to get an invitation to a sleepover. But the invitation must have been imposed by the parent (so as not to leave anyone out), because I became the brunt of the group’s every joke. Just because there were not any chastity or Word of Wisdom concerns there did not make it a safe place for me.

    Now my children have a very different social situation than I did. Being homeschooled, they are much less likely to receive the kind of imposed invitations that I did where a child is made to invite everyone in his or her class. So I am not yet ready to just make a blanket rule. I also think that there is a difference between a sleepover where you just have one friend over, and a slumber party with a larger group. But I definitely agree that co-ed slumber parties are a definite “no,” and sleepovers where there are older siblings are a probable “no.”

    I look forward to reading other comments on this subject.

  • Angie Gardner December 20, 2011, 10:02 am

    I think our rule developed as part of a conversation about sleepovers/slumber parties from our past. While nothing absolutely horrible ever happened, nothing terribly uplifting ever did either. I do remember particularly with a group of girls I hung around with in 5-8 grade (we had a lot of slumber parties) there was a lot of dirty joke telling and sometimes being mean to other girls there (teasing getting kind of out of hand). Certainly not punishable offenses but just ways to fill time that weren’t necessarily good. So, I think we just decided as a couple that the less time to fill at these things, the better. I do agree with those who have said you need to follow the spirit with your kids and not necessarily make a blanket rule – although I find that almost every family has rules about something or other, and I suppose they all have their reasons so I’m fine with it. I remember growing up one of my friends had a family rule that they had to stay in their church clothes all day on Sunday, AND they had to dress up to watch general conference on TV. I remember thinking that was the stupidest thing ever and yet I’m sure her parents had their reasons for doing it.

    Regarding overnight church activities, other than camps they really annoy me. Our ward has a big thing with sleepovers for the young women. I just don’t see the point – if you are sleeping, why do you need to be together? And if you aren’t sleeping, what ARE you doing? I know from being at camp that even then there are some very questionable things that go on, with adults right in the room. A few nights a year for girl’s camp I’m willing to do it (be an adult chaperone) but I don’t know why we would wish this upon ourselves more than we have to. Just my opinion, of course.

    I think sleepovers (one/one) can actually be more dangerous because parents may tend to supervise less than if there is a big group. I have talked to more than one person (as adults) about this, and they had a fair amount of sexual talk/experimentation going on at sleepovers with friends (usually same-sex, sometimes with siblings of opposite sex). Even for me, (and I was a pretty good kid) there were sometimes conversations that looking back on it now were just creepy. I spent a LOT of nights at my best friend’s house, as my family lived 10 miles out of town and sometimes it was just easier to stay there. It’s a bit cringe-worthy now when I think about it, and I really wish my parents or hers would have said no more often. It became a habit to stay there most weekends, late nights and girls up late talking in bed when they are tired and goofy…yeah.

    This (sleepovers vs. slumber parties) is also a prime time for some word of wisdom issues and also for doing some questionable things on the internet. I know I have seen some interesting posts on facebook (later removed, I am sure at the request of parents) that were posted at a friend’s house on overnighters.

    I might be lazy, but to me it’s just easier to say no to all of it and make the rare exception.

  • jennycherie December 20, 2011, 12:33 pm

    You know, some of this will have to do with the way sleepovers are handled too – we have a very small house and, by necessity, there is very little privacy outside of the bathroom. When we have had friends over, they can’t just run off upstairs or downstairs to play and stay out of my hair. They are always near, within earshot, if not hovering around me. The girls will often stay in the kitchen with me, especially if they want to bake something or paint nails. That makes a big difference in my comfort level with the sleepover thing.

    Also, I DO remember a lot of creepy things happening at sleepovers when I was a kid, but they mostly resulted from my upbringing, and lack of understanding about spiritual things. I can remember playing with a Ouija board (CREEPY) and telling scary stories that I would NOT want my kids doing, but those things also happened because we were in a large house, far removed from parents, and staying up all night while the parents slept.
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

  • Clerissa Lewis December 20, 2011, 3:23 pm

    We are a no slumber party household. A late night will be good enough, or else they can decline to go to the party all together 🙂 Their choice 😉 I plan to be a parent who stays up and is checked in with. I am also a parent who plans to go to girls camp with my daughter and my husband will go to scout camp with our sons. Too many examples of junk that went on and goes on. But I am a mean parent that way 😉

  • Angie Gardner December 20, 2011, 6:32 pm

    Thank you Clerissa for making me look not quite as mean. 🙂 I don’t know how your stake will be with you attending camp with your daughter, but it wouldn’t happen in my stake currently. In fact, we had a mom ask to go last year and she was told that she could go but not be in the same level as her daughter – so she decided not to go at all. We did have some mothers/daughters there, but moms were always assigned to different levels – so they would see their daughters at meals, etc. but not at most activities and not in the same cabin.

  • Tracy Polyak December 20, 2011, 10:00 pm

    That is interesting, Angie, about the moms not being allowed to be with their daughters at girls’ camp. As a convert, I have no experience with girls’ camp. Did you think that they should have been allowed to be assigned to their daughters’ groups? Did you feel that the moms there were able to sufficiently supervise their children?

  • Angie Gardner December 20, 2011, 10:21 pm

    Tracy – I was in the stake YW presidency at the time so I guess it was partially my decision, but that’s just always the way it’s been done. If moms are asked to go (the wards submit the names of who will go) we assign them to a level where there daughter isn’t. Same with youth leaders and their sisters. This year we did have a mom with 2 daughters there – one was a first year, one was a YL who we put with the 3rd years, and we put the mom with the 2nd years. I think it has traditionally been designed that way for several reasons: First they do have enough supervision (there is approximately 1 adult leader and 1 youth leader for every 3-5 girls), if moms and daughters are together the girls tend to get whiny and needy…I don’t know, it’s just always been this way and I know our stake YW president felt strongly about it and no moms tested her on it other than the one mom who invited herself to camp and was told she could go as an adult leader but that we would put her with a different level than her daughter was in.

    Interestingly, I ended up filling in at the last minute in my own daughter’s level. We had a leader go home after a day and I was asked by the president to step in because it was kind of a mess (long story…) anyway. My daughter really did fine the first day when she had the other leader there, but as soon as I came in she was “homesick” and wanted attention. She may have been suffering in silence that first day, but perhaps there is something to be learned from being away from mom and dad for a few days in a well supervised setting. Anyway, in hindsight I wish someone else would have been able to fill in with that level, but I guess technically I was the only mom who was allowed to break the rule and be with her daughter – but it certainly wasn’t at my request.

    As far as moms there being able to supervise their children, I would say no they don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to do that, but that is kind of the point I think. I didn’t make the rule but I do kind of see the purpose in it. Our camp is divided by levels (1st year, 2nd, 3rd, 4th) and then there are YL’s and adult leaders. Each level has their own cabin where they sleep and shower so moms and daughters will not be together during that time. During the day, they will see each other at meals and some activities, but for much of the time they are still by level. That’s just how our stake does it…I know some stakes don’t do a stake camp at all, but go as a ward. Or, they might go as a stake but still bunk as wards. So, I guess it’s different everywhere but here, at least under the current president, moms and daughters are separated.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 21, 2011, 2:15 pm

    This comment was emailed by “Susan” who gave permission to post:

    My mother is a licensed clinical social worker and worked in children’s mental health. She was also a lead therapist in group therapy for 10 years in working with perpetrators of abuse. She said if she could go back and parent again she would never allow sleepovers. Nothing good comes of them. Often times girls are victimized at sleepovers by the father in the home or by a brother of the friend who is hosting the sleepover or the friend of the brother who is also staying the night because the brother is also having a sleepover. She said not only are girls victimized but it also creates a situation where boys act out in ways they might not otherwise because they simply have access and opportunity. I don’t think slumber parties create pedophiles but I believe in my mothers experience and wisdom as well as the fact that if it is mentioned in general conference, it is based in something that has been an issue more than once. I also don’t think the advice was given in regard to sexual issues only but in regard to many issues.

    Great article on your families stance and we have the same stance on sleepovers as well.

    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Great December IdeasMy Profile

  • Sandy Grant December 22, 2011, 11:33 pm

    We set this rule in our house when our oldest was about 6. Mostly because we had some friends we felt comfortable with sending out daughter to, others that we didn’t. Rather than decide case by case we just opted for none at all. We also encourage late nights and the kids really enjoy those just as much as a sleep over. I DO know of an incident that happened at a sleepover where an older brother behaved inappropriately with a girls friends. Finding out about that reenforced our decision. This was a “good” LDS home, a boy you would never worry about. I am not saying that this happens all the time but I know that I can’t remember much good that happened at the sleepovers I attended when I was young.
    We do allow church sponsored events, as the benefits outweigh the risked (though if I felt concerned I wouldn’t hesitate bringing them home). I gained a lot from girls camp, youth conferences and EFY. We also allow overnights with cousins. Mostly because there are times when mom and dad need a night away and it works best to have them stay at the cousins house. We also have group family vacations so we are all in the same house together.
    Overall I just think it is important to stay close to the spirit and do what the Lord guides you to do.

  • Clerissa Lewis December 23, 2011, 9:01 pm

    Interesting that a stake would have a policy that a mom couldn’t go, if that is the case then my daughter won’t go. That simple. Kind of a fishy policy to separate families and deny help being offered. People all too easily trust everyone and pawn their kids off. I don’t care if you are LDS, Ted Bundy was once LDS, so just because you are in my ward doesn’t hold much water. And not just the leaders, kids are mean and manipulative. For the record I never went to a camp were the leader to kid ratio was 1-3 or 4… maybe outside of utah? Here in utah the average class size is what, 12? And youth leaders are still youth, that doesn’t count as supervision.

    For the record, my mom always came, there was not a year she wasn’t there and I am one of 5 girls. And she was always in our tent or cabin. She also always helped. She wasn’t hovering over us, she was either playing cook or nurse but was available if we needed to talk to her. ( case in point, my asthmatic sister started having an attack on a hike and the leader kept encouraging her to carry on “she could make it” luckily our neighbor was one of the other leaders and took her back where we then had to take her back into the city because she was pushed too hard and even her inhaler couldn’t stop the attack. And that is only one example ) My brothers never went to a scout event with my dad not there ( too many accounts to even start, scouts are horrible 🙂 )

    So yes, I have strong opinions about that, hopefully my stake doesn’t have any screwy policies to face later.

  • Angie Gardner December 23, 2011, 11:02 pm

    Thank you everyone for your comments. As I have been thinking about this more over the last few days, I am even more convinced that my policy is the best one for our family. When I look back on it, I really cannot think of anything positive that ever came from a sleepover/slumber party and in fact, feel kind of lucky that nothing horrible ever did. The most traumatic thing was when my friend’s fire alarms went off in the middle of the night (log rolled out of the fire…scary) and I saw her brothers in their underwear. But I do think there was plenty of inappropriate talk, and when I really think about it, I think my best friend would have been open to some playing around sexually…I was just too naive to see it then.

    Anyway…Clerissa, to your points. I think if a mom came and insisted that she goes along or her daughter won’t be able to go, they would probably allow it. I just don’t think anyone has ever asked and they prefer the girls to gain some degree of independence through camp. Our camp is set up by level, not ward, so each level has their own cabin, with most of their activities being as a level and some as the complete group. So moms and daughters would see each other and be nearby, just not right in the same cabin. No one has seemed to have a problem with it so far.

    As for girl to chaperone ratio, when I thought more about that I think it is more like 5:1. We ask for wards to send 1 leader for every 6 girls, but some send more and then we also have the stake leaders so it ends up being a little less than that. As for youth leaders, some of them are more of a problem than they are a help, but for the most part they are really responsible and do help out and keep the younger girls on track.

    Average class size 12? Yeah, not in Michigan. 🙂 Our average entire YW is probably somewhere around 12 active. I do know our biggest ward has 22 active total and our smallest has 2 (sisters). It is definitely different out here than it is in Utah. I live in the biggest ward in the stake and it still is way different than when I was Primary president in Utah with over 200 children! 🙂

  • Clerissa Lewis December 27, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Just to clarify, in case my strong opinions are viewed in such a way. I don’t plan to be a hawk for my kids, and have to be right next them always. I do plan to be accessible. Our wards have always been in the same cabin, so it sounds different out there with you guys doing it by levels you said instead of wards, which would make it hard if I had 2 daughters as to be in same cabin, so I am grateful we do it by wards, so that bounding is encouraged as a unit that way.

    Ha, yes, class size is prob a major factor in how a stake does things, I remember when my fam, then with 7 children, visited my aunt in north dakota and we went to the local lds ward, yeah we were the entire primary, they had to pull in the subs to teach one big joint lesson to us since no teachers had those positions because there were 2 kids in the ward and one was in yw the other in nursery 🙂

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Next post:

Previous post: