Sleepovers: My Worst Nightmare

Trigger Warning for sexually abused


A few days ago, I noticed a conversation on my Facebook news feed. It was among a group of mamas from a rather large Facebook group. The subject of conversation was sleepovers. A article by Dr. James Dobson was referenced in the initiating post by one mama asking the other mamas their opinions. Dr. Dobson outlined his reasons for not allowing sleepovers in his article. 

I was simultaneously encouraged, frustrated and angry by the conversation that blossomed in the comments on this post. There were a few women that agreed with Dr. Dobson’s point of view that allowing your child to attend a sleepover is taking quite a risk. Child pornography gets made somehow. Molestation and rape occur somehow. Why not limit the risk of it happening to your child by adding ‘no sleepovers’ to your list next to ‘don’t talk to strangers’?

I’m sure it is obvious I agree with the no-sleepover rule. The only sleepovers my daughter has been allowed to attend without me (when she was in my custody, I should say) have been those with grandparents. I didn’t comment on this post, stating my position and why, because it was becoming apparent that the conversation had devolved into a post that only served to guilt mothers who didn’t agree with the majority.

Many mamas said they had to know the people really well before sending their child on a sleepover. Many others stated that they had thoroughly discussed things like molestation with their children, giving them tips on how to avoid such a thing. Many of these same moms giving tips also subscribed to the theory ‘you can’t watch your children every second of every day or they will never grow up’. Helicopter parenting was also mentioned.

I wanted to shout at all of these moms giving tips to their children on how to avoid getting molested that they don’t get it. These moms just don’t understand.

Is it important to teach a child of a certain age or maturity that such a thing exists in the world? Yes. Is it important to drill into that child that if anything, anything that makes her or him feel uncomfortable happens she should report it immediately to a parent or grandparent? Yes. Extremely. I don’t want my daughter to be victimized at all, but I especially don’t want her to be victimized and then suffer in silence because of intimidation and fear. But are my best efforts in educating her on such a topic going to be enough to prevent molestation?

No. Absolutely not.

I can give her tools so at least maybe she would know what to do next if such a horrible thing happened. But can I reasonably expect her to out-manipulate a seasoned manipulator? That’s the thing some of those mamas seemed to forget. Not only would my daughter most likely be at a size disadvantage, she is also at a mental disadvantage. Someone who has been manipulative and deceptive for more than a moment has more experience at such things than my daughter.

These people that prey on children have honed and perfected their methods, or else they would have already been caught and jailed and put on a list. They specialize in deceiving adults and manipulating children. Am I really going to say that my seven-year-old daughter should or could be able to out smart such a person?  Isn’t that placing blame squarely on every victim who wasn’t able to outsmart their assailant?

I strongly believe in self-determination and that every parent should determine what is best for his or her child independent of my (or anyone else’s) opinion. I’m not advocating every parent must parent MY way. I just wish we, as a society could find a happy medium between helicopter parenting and treating our children as if they are miniature adults.

My child is a child. She has the correct developmental age and maturity of a seven-year-old. But, she is only seven. She is my precious responsibility.


6 Replies to “Sleepovers: My Worst Nightmare”

  1. I read the article too, and I honestly have mixed opinions on the subject. I would never ever allow my children to sleep over at someones house that I didn’t feel 100% comfortable with. The world is a scary place and I would never put my child in harms way, but at some point you have to trust others to be around your child.

    1. I’m not sure how to make my response sound less aggressive. So, please keep in mind I am not trying to be anything other than honest about my feelings.

      I don’t have to trust others to be around my child…overnight. There is no conceivable reason that I would need to trust someone other than a grandparent to keep her overnight. I know some people work overnight and would need an overnight sitter, but I don’t.

      She goes to school and she goes to church (Sunday school classes and then children’s church), so obviously I do trust her to be around people. But overnight in someone’s home is a very vulnerable setting for a child. Most children, including mine, are taught to be good guests and be polite. I don’t see her speaking up for herself until something went from uncomfortable to way over the line. I also keep in mind that it isn’t always adults, but other kids, too, that prey on children. It is much harder to figure out for me if another child has the potential to molest or be inappropriate with your child.

      I just don’t think there is a good enough reason to take the chance.

      1. I don’t think you sound aggressive at all. You are making the decision that you feel is the best for you and your child. I think ultimately it comes down to who you personally feel comfortable with watching your children. I for one have no problem with my little guy (when he is old enough of course) to spend the night with his grandparents, or either of my siblings….but would have to take friend sleepovers on an individual basis.

      2. Good! You are exactly right. It is all about what I can live with, feel comfortable with. I’m sure you will know, too, when the time is right.

  2. I love this. Someone who agrees with the way I feel on the matter of sleepovers … hard to come by to be honest. I can for see it being an area of disagreement among friends, relatives and probably even DH and me. But it simply isn’t worth it to take the chance. I am afraid that I wouldn’t have the discernment to know if someone is trustworthy or not. People surprise us sometimes….. not always in a good way.

    1. It does seem to be one of those issues that triggers strong and usually opposite opinions. Discernment is the perfect word! I also hate to be naive enough to think that I am somehow better at spotting a pedophile than every parent of every sexually abused kid. The old saying ‘the best defense is an offense’ comes to mind. Why take the chance? Social interaction? To fit in? No thank you. Like I said in the comments somewhere, too, it isn’t always the adult that is the abuser but sometimes other children. It is too hard to discern.

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