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Sleepover Nightmares…

I am having a really hard time with the American institution of the Sleepover or Slumber party. I had never heard of the existence of such a thing until I moved to the US. What in the world is a sleepover?

When I was the kid growing up in Germany, the only reason one would spend the night at someone else’s house would be because your parents were hospitalized or on a romantic Getaway. The only place you would spend the night would be your grandma’s or a relative’s house. But then this rarely EVER happened. My parents were not the vacationing type.

Let me ask you: Why would you let your child spend a night at a perfect stranger’s home? I remember the agony of my kids asking me once they started school, begging me to spend the night at so-and-so’s house. After all, I already stick out like a sore thumb with my German accent. Then I also became known as that German lady who wrecks birthday parties.

I am sorry I am having such a hard time with this. I just don’t see why children should be allowed to go to another kid’s house and stay up all night eating candy, watching inappropriate movies, and do anything BUT sleep. I have seen the zombie-like victims of such parties at soccer games the next day…

Even better, one time this kid walks up to me, not knowing me from Adam, and says: “Can I sleep over at your house?” What in the Sam hill?

I feel bad for being the crusher of so many sleepover dreams but it took me a while to wrap my mind around this idea. I don’t want to be mean or anything, I just want my kids to be safe and not worry about them getting in the middle of some bad scenario. I have actually had parents confess to me about their regrets letting a child sleepover at times. Looks like I am not alone with my fears.

Over the years I have tried to find a healthy middle ground where I can exist and my kids can still have fun. I developed some rules that make me feel better about letting my child participate in a sleepover. So hopefully all of us can >sleep like a baby< when they are away from home…

1. Knowing all members of the family and what the sleeping arrangements will be is a must for me! I don’t let my child sleepover at anyone’s house unless I have met both parents and the siblings. I have to be able to trust my instincts. If I have any doubts about my child’s safety, I will say “No!” to the sleepover.

2. I talk to the parents about rules in their house and try to assess whether my child will get any sleep that night. If we have big event on the agenda for the next day, and I get the impression that this will be more of a “Awake-over” party, I may allow my child to go to part of the party. I pick them up after they had dinner at their friends house. They just don’t do the sleep part of the party…

3. I make sure I have the parents’ house and cellphone numbers and that they have mine in case of an emergency.

4. It’s also a good idea to discuss what foods are being served, especially if your child has allergies or is a picky eater.

Points to consider from the child’s perspective:

Is he/she emotionally ready to sleep away from home? Will my child be comfortable spending the night at another person’s house?

Discuss with your child what happens in case they wake up before the family in that house does? Our kids are early risers. They are up early regardless of the time they went to bed the night before. Will they be comfortable upon waking up?  What will they do when they are awake before everyone else?

Hope my little check list helps you and your kid stay safe and avoid any nightmares.


Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.


9 thoughts on “Sleepover Nightmares…

  1. I totally agree with you except that we have a rule of no sleep overs at all. My husband and I both remember too well the horrors of sleep overs when we were children. And I’m talking about families our parents thought they could trust.

    Good post. I don’t think this topic gets near enough coverage at all.

  2. Well, there are rarely any sleepovers for my kids either, Folky! I’d say about once or twice a year. The families they stay with we have known for years and we are on the same page when it comes to parenting.
    What was really interesting to me as a foreigner was that so many parents felt peer pressure to let their kids sleep over when really they were not feeling comfortable with it at all…

  3. Yeah, we’re not down with the sleep over thing either. Our kiddos used to spend the night with their grandparents on a semi-regular basis, but even that seemed to be having negative effects so now that only happens on rare occasion when we have something else we HAVE to do.

  4. Oh, the dreaded sleepover. My parents tell tales of how, when I was small, they had to come “fetch” me at midnight or later due to an attack of homesickness. They were horrified several years later when I finally told them about times (multiple!) my five year old friend and I would wake up early, walk across busy streets in Toronto, and buy string licorice at a convenience shop for breakfast. As I got older, and more worried about looking like a “wimp”, I remember lying in bed, sick with dread, praying for morning to come. I was terrified when my other friend’s Dad would yell at her. And once, when he was particularly mad and threatening to belt her, we had to hide for a few hours. None of that lighthearted party feeling for me! I finally refused to go on a sleepover at all unless it was with my grandparents.

    I was extremely hesitant to send my son on any sleepovers. I know from personal experience that kids don’t tell you everything! I’ve also heard too much about the “M” rated video games and movies shown at these events. Some parents seem to think that “Grand Theft Auto” is an ok game for small children.

    I think that sleepovers should be reserved for relatives and, perhaps, well-known families that share VERY similar values and who have been in your child’s life for a long period of time.

  5. Wow, Kangy! What a horrible experience. Makes me wonder about what other children have suffered through…

  6. Glad to know it’s not just me. I slept over with my closest girlfriends when I was a child and never had any horrible experiences. But, I do remember watching movies I really shouldn’t have and didn’t want to either but you don’t want to be the ‘party pooper’ or baby. I also remember, at times, feeling uneasy with the way some of their parents disciplined while I was there. And, really, you just never know about people and when you’re child is alone with them, in their own home, who knows what could go on behind your back. Maybe I’m over protective, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

  7. My son had his first overnighter away from family last week and he’ll be 15 years this weekend. The parents are wonderful people and I wasn’t at all concerned about his safety, but I was still a nervous wreck the whole time he was gone! I’m glad it doesn’t happen very often:)

  8. Sleepovers can be quite positive too. I spent a great deal of time at sleepovers with a close group of friends as well as cousins. I think you have to really know the people you are trusting your children with and cannot be afraid of asking questions. Of course, something can always go wrong, but that can be said just about any time or place.

    The positives of sleepovers include learning diversity, being exposed to other beliefs and learning to make decisions away from your parents. Of course these can happen other times too. My children have spent plenty of time sleeping over at their close friends’ house and, although there are differences in parenting and family life, my kids have survived the late nights and video games without issue. Not only that, but each of our families have enjoyed a bit of peacefulness without fighting boys for a bit – always a nice refresher. We also knew what to expect when one of our boys went to summer camp this year – we knew he would not be homesick at all or have a hard time jumping into activities. It’s also nice to be able to have people you can count on and know your children will be comfortable with in case something happens (family member in the hospital or other emergency).

    You really do have to trust your instincts and go with what you are comfortable with. You also have to know what your children are comfortable with, even if they are not sure themselves. Yes, bad things can happen, but they can also happen in church, school, at a babysitter’s, and even in your own home. That doesn’t mean that they happen all the time or even most of the time. Go with your gut – if it feels wrong, it probably is!

  9. My mother was born and raised in Sweden – came to the US at age 24 and I have to say that she never seemed to have any issue with my sister or I sleeping at a friend’s house. I never had a bad experience. I think it would boil down more to you trusting your child not to just follow the herd. If you think your child could be so easily talked into doing something naughty – then of course don’t allow them to go. But if your child has a strong head on their shoulders and know YOUR rules – they will more then likely stick with what they know you would approve of.

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