### Insights from Two Parenting Specialists on Reconsidering Children’s Sleepover Policies

Sleepovers, a cherished childhood tradition where friends gather for games, laughter, and bonding, have been a long-standing rite of passage. However, recent conversations about sleepover safety have prompted concerns regarding potential risks children may encounter in unfamiliar settings.

In a notable shift in perspective, Joanna Schroeder, during a discussion on the YourTango Podcast, shared how her research on male abuse survivors impacted her views on sleepovers. This revelation, shared with experts Dr. Cara Natterson and Vanessa Kroll Bennett, authors of This Is So Awkward, sparked a reconsideration of the safety aspects of this nighttime childhood ritual.

The podcast episode highlighted crucial issues like screen time and unhealthy eating habits during sleepovers. However, feedback from listeners emphasized the need to address more serious concerns such as sexual abuse, substance abuse, and the presence of firearms in households hosting sleepovers.

Joanna’s investigative work for Bright Magazine shed light on the alarming prevalence of sexual assault during sleepovers, underscoring the hidden dangers that these seemingly innocent gatherings may harbor. This newfound awareness compels parents to navigate this intricate landscape diligently and implement measures to safeguard their children.

Vanessa Kroll Bennett shared insights on the feedback received post-podcast, revealing listeners’ apprehensions about sexual and substance abuse risks associated with sleepovers. The revelation of firearms as another worrisome aspect adds complexity to the debate, necessitating comprehensive discussions and safety strategies for diverse settings.

To address these concerns, here are six proactive steps parents can take to protect their children during sleepovers:

  1. Open Communication: Foster open dialogue with your child to create a safe space for discussing any worries or experiences that may arise during sleepovers.

  2. Know the Host Family: Prioritize familiarity with the host family to assess the safety and dynamics of the environment before allowing your child to attend.

  3. Set Boundaries: Clearly establish rules and expectations regarding behavior, internet usage, and potential risks with both your child and the host family.

  4. Teach Safety: Educate your child on personal safety, consent, and the importance of speaking up if they feel uncomfortable.

  5. Regular Check-Ins: Stay connected with your child through periodic check-ins via phone calls or messages to provide reassurance and address any concerns.

  6. Establish a Signal: Create a discreet signal or code with your child that indicates they want to leave a sleepover without causing alarm, ensuring a safe exit strategy if needed.

By striking a balance between enabling enriching experiences and prioritizing safety, parents can equip their children with the tools and strategies to navigate sleepovers responsibly in today’s dynamic world. Alternatively, the option to prohibit sleepovers remains a valid choice for concerned parents.

Deanna Roane, the Editorial Project Manager for YourTango, is a writer with published work in Emerson College’s literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.