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  5. There are pros and cons to letting your kids go to sleepovers. Experts explain how to reduce the risks and create a safety plan.

There are pros and cons to letting your kids go to sleepovers. Experts explain how to reduce the risks and create a safety plan.

Kelly Burch   

There are pros and cons to letting your kids go to sleepovers. Experts explain how to reduce the risks and create a safety plan.
  • Many parents feel passionate about both the benefits and risks of sleepovers.
  • Talk within your family and to the hosts about safety measures.

Late-night pillow fights, junk food, and movie marathons during sleepovers are a rite of passage for many kids and teens. And yet, more and more often, parents are reluctant to allow sleepovers, especially amid scary headlines about the things that can go wrong at the events.

Ultimately, parents have to weigh the benefits and risks of attending sleepovers and make the right choice for their family, says Traci Williams, PsyD, a clinical psychologist with Healthy Wealthy Roots and mom of a preschooler who is already asking for sleepovers.

"Sleepovers provide an opportunity for kids to develop their social and problem-solving skills, practice having autonomy, and foster their resilience," Williams said. "As with most aspects of life, there is risk, but if the pros outweigh the cons, parents should focus on minimizing this risk instead of avoiding risk altogether."

Here's how to decide whether to allow sleepovers, and how to set up safety plans for when your kids sleep away from home.

Have conversations within your family

The opportunities for your child to attend sleepovers will inevitably come up, so keep the lines of communication open with your children and spouse or co-parent.

"Deciding whether sleepovers are suitable for your family involves considering your child's maturity level, the level of trust you have in the host family, and your child's comfort with being away from home," Daniel Rinaldi, a therapist and dad, told Business Insider.

Encourage your child to share their thoughts about whether they feel ready for sleepovers, and carve out time to talk with your spouse or co-parent away from the kids.

"Discuss your concerns, fears, and the values you believe are essential," Rinaldi said.

Provide a united parenting front

Sleepovers bring up strong positive and negative emotions, and it's very possible you and your child's other parent will disagree about the right approach. In that case, compromise can be key.

"A trial basis for sleepovers with agreed-upon boundaries can be a constructive way to address differing views," Rinaldi said. For example, his six-year-old daughter is allowed to sleep away from home, but only with trusted family: her grandparents and aunt.

Get on the same page before telling your child whether they will or won't be allowed to have a sleepover to avoid family tension and confusion, Williams explained.

"Whether you finally agree to the sleepover or not, present a unified message to your child, emphasizing your decision was made with their best interest in mind," she said.

Address tough topics with the host family

For families that do allow sleepovers, even more conversations are in order, Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a board-certified pediatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center, said. First, talk candidly with the host parents.

"Discuss supervision plans, food allergies, bedtime routines, and any other relevant details," he said.

Williams also suggested asking about guns and alcohol in the home, and who will be present during the sleepover — including other children.

Make a safety plan with your kids

The most important conversations are the ones you'll have with your child before the sleepover, experts say.

"These conversations should include respecting personal boundaries, recognizing uncomfortable situations, and knowing how to communicate with you anytime during the sleepover," Rinaldi said.

In addition, talk with your kids about:

  • Digital safety: Cover what to do if kids or teens witness online bullying, or images that they find uncomfortable or scary.

  • Weapons, including guns: Emphasize that they should always tell an adult immediately if they see a firearm or anything else they feel is dangerous.

  • Changes to the plan: Let your children know when you'd expect a call if their plan for the night changes from what you discussed ahead of time.

Ultimately, it's most important for your child to know they can call you for any reason, our experts said.

"Make sure your child knows they can call you anytime, no matter what," Ganjian said. Texting is another great option. "Establish a code word if they need to be picked up early without raising suspicion with others."

Acknowledge that missing out on sleepovers is hard

If you decide against sleepovers, "empathize with your child, acknowledging their disappointment," Williams said. She suggests finding other ways for your child to have special time with their friends, like having longer or later playdates.