Why Avoid Sleepovers?
By Barrington H. Brennen, March 1, 2021
parents have sleepovers for their growing children? Are
there any challenges in having sleepovers? Truly, I am
amazed how sleepovers have become so popular during the past
decades. I also observed that mostly, it is the children
who request sleepovers, not the parents. Then parents give
in with the view that there is no harm in having the
sleepover. They are little children.
Let me remind us about two important principles.
It is in the home where children are to feel most
loved and secure.
It is the parent’s full responsibility to provide a
healthy growth development plan and environment for
With that in mind, we must understand that young
children—from birth to age twelve—are very impressionable
and are developing life-long patterns of behavior which
become the foundation for their character. So, parents are
to guard every minute of their children’s lives to ensure
that their mind and senses are not cluttered with negative
ideas and emotions. It is also my view that teenagers are
full of energy and creativity, yet vulnerable and can be
innocently exposed to environments that can adversely change
their lives forever. It is my view that sleepovers, no
matter how well they are organized, are one of those
negative gateways for learning destructive behaviors.
Before I go further, I want to share what I would consider
as positive points for sleepovers. In the article,
“Sleepovers—Bad Idea or No Big Deal?” the writer Shelby
Abbott states: “It can be fun for your kids to build deeper
and more meaningful relationships with their friends. Time
spent in someone else’s home can foster an environment of
great friendship building. Being in someone else’s home can
also help kids learn a different family culture or
environment. This helps to make your kids more well-rounded,
knowledgeable, and empathetic.” Also note this important
point he makes: “The pros, however, kind of end there. And
honestly, the positives mentioned do not only happen in the
context of a sleepover. Those benefits can happen in
different environments that don’t require the vulnerability
of staying overnight.”
Then, what would be a negative point for having sleepovers.
I must first quote from the same author. Here are his
words: “We’ll start with something minor. Your kids are
probably going to stay up late and eat a bunch of junk food,
which may make them sick to their stomach and guarantees
they will be grouchy the next day. Other more likely
outcomes are the mischievous actions, words, and attitudes
kids tend to shift toward when unsupervised for long
periods. They could watch something on TV you may not
approve of. They could be exposed to pornography, alcohol,
foul language, or even unsafe circumstances. None of which
they are equipped to handle because of their immaturity as
children. Even worse, they could be abused in some form or
harmed in a way that could affect them for years to come.”
The challenge with sleepovers, especially if the number of
guest children greatly exceeds the number of your children,
is that it is exceedingly difficult to effectively manage
all of them. Little children (those up to 12 years) require
hands-on supervision. Eyes and ears must always be
vigilant. Although teenagers do not require hands-on
supervision, still they need distant supervision and can be
more reckless and challenging.
Interestingly, while researching on the topic, every article
I read had one common reason they opposed sleepovers. They
all had a negative personal experience with sleepovers. One
author said: “While many kids go to sleepovers that are not
a problem, it only takes one incident to ruin a child’s
innocence. That was the case for me.”
Another point is that of being exposed to seeing and hearing
destructive information via technology. Shelby Abbott
states: “I have just found that sleepovers tend to leave
children vulnerable and put them in situations that perhaps
they are not ready to deal with when it comes to technology
and being exposed to things their little eyes should not
In a 2017 Chicago Tribune article by Danielle Braff
entitled, “Sleepovers a thing of the past? It’s a trust
issue, parents,” make an interesting point: “Sleepovers
were a "rite of passage" during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s
for middle-class Americans, but today many parents are
rejecting them, fearing sexual abuse and loss of control . .
. The classic sleepover: pizza followed by ice-cream
sundaes, prank phone calls and movie upon movie until you
finally crash as the sun starts to rise may have seen better
days. And while there are no statistics about the number of
slumber parties today compared with a decade or two ago, all
you have to do is Google "sleepovers" to be bombarded with
advice on how and why to avoid sending your child to them.”
Sleepovers can really impact a growing child negatively and
damage him or her for life. If you are considering a
sleepover, note my closing points:
It is exceedingly difficult to control the movement
and actions of all those attending the sleepover.
Also, often negative habits are learned during
sleepovers and the parents may not be aware of them
until it is too late.
If you are deciding to have a sleep over for your
children make sure it does not include both sexes.
This situation may produce sexual overtones that can
leave the child confused or wounded.
Ensure that there are sufficient supervisors that
will remain awake 24/7, sufficient bathrooms, ample
sleeping areas to prevent proximity and unnecessary
A sleepover will be exposing people in your
children’s private spaces and times that can be very
detrimental and life changing.
Parents, if you are considering a sleepover for your
children, please examine your own motives. Is it to boost
your own ego? Are you foolishly giving in to your
children’s wishes and will you regret your decision in years
to come? Are you using the sleepover to make up for your own
lack of parenting skills and time spent with your children?
Please remember, you have really nothing to lose by not
having a sleepover.
Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.
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