Sleepovers are some of the most nostalgic and memorable experiences from childhood. However, last year, influencer and mother, Tara Huck, shared some controversial thoughts on child sleepovers. In a video she posted on both Instagram and Tik Tok, she said that she doesn’t allow her children to have sleepovers. The posts were viewed millions of times.
Speaking with TODAY Parents, Tara shared her perspective on opting out of sleepovers. “I feel like kids are most vulnerable when they’re sleeping,” Her opinion opposes sleepovers, due to lack of security. She fears that because she may not know everyone in the household, she can’t shield her children from traumas they may face at the hands of others.
“I feel like kids are most vulnerable when they’re sleeping,” she said. “I’m just trying to eliminate one very small factor that could potentially harm them. If they could come out of their childhood without having had a very traumatic experience, whatever that experience could be, well, that’s all I’m trying to do.”
Tara isn’t the only one, according to a 2016 Australian study, 89% of participants mentioned safety as the main reason they didn’t want their children attending sleepovers.
You can view her video below.
Are Sleep Overs Dangerous?
While these sleepovers can create memories that give us a sense of happiness and internal warmth, there are some memories that can be painful to recall. We, as parents, struggle to make choices that we confidently know are best for our children. We want them to be happy and have fun but we need them to be safe. What are the dangers of sleepovers? Are there neurological or developmental benefits to having sleepovers, and how do they correlate to social skills? What can you do to help make sleepovers and your children safer?
Thinking back to our own childhood, we most likely can all recall an instance where sleeping over at a friend’s house or vice versa, created some lifelong memories. These get-togethers often resulted in waking up the next morning with a newfound sense of closeness to the people around us. We looked forward to going back to school so we could relive the fun, funny, and memorable moments from the weekend.
It’s understandable that some parents are taking a second look at allowing their children to sleep over at a friend or peer’s house. This is because, more than before, we’ve come to truly understand and appreciate the importance of preserving our mental health. Other issues, like gun safety, and sexual abuse are also top of mind. These daunting feelings have led most parents to consider avoiding the whole experience altogether.
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What are Experts Saying?
It’s not surprising that Tara Huck’s perspective has created some debate amongst parents and experts. Several child psychologists have weighed in with thoughts revolving around the social and personal developmental benefits these social gatherings provide. According to TODAY, Dr. Sara Douglas, a Manhattan pediatric neuropsychologist says “Navigating social relationships is something that children don’t always have the opportunity to do with a level of independence.”  Similarly, as per The Washington Post, clinical psychologist Maureen Monaghan says “a night away from home is, both healthy and important for growth. This experience allows one to feel as though they are on their own, while still creating an environment that’s safe and structured” 
Are You Making the Right Call?
While avoiding the situation altogether does ensure your child won’t face harm at the hands of strangers, there are many downsides to opting out of sleepovers. Exposure to other people’s homes can give children the ability to practice using their manners, a chance to see, firsthand, cultural diversity, and a new perspective on everyday living. Children oftentimes, also, feel an innate desire to fit in and be liked by their peers. When kept from partaking in the same activities, children can be left feeling a sense of disconnect from their friends and peers.
Steps You Can Take to Ensure Safe Sleepovers
If you want to allow your kids to take part in sleepovers but are concerned about their safety, there are steps to take that can ultimately nurture safety and wellbeing. Communication is the first and possibly most crucial step. Cultivating an open environment within our own homes allows children to freely communicate, addressing safety concerns. Another important aspect of communication is age appropriateness. Having a limited vocabulary leaves children vulnerable and unable to effectively communicate their needs and concerns. Next, familiarize yourself with everyone who will come into contact or be left unsupervised with your child. It can also be helpful to discuss your expectations with the family. By setting boundaries and discussing how everyone conducts themselves, each family has an opportunity to better know one another. Lastly, trust your instincts! Though most people either choose to ignore, or don’t know how to recognize it, we all have an intuition. Listen to that feeling because even if it isn’t immediately apparent, there is almost always a reason we experience discomfort in the presence of certain individuals.
In life and as parents, we often find ourselves second-guessing the choices we’ve made. There is no way around that. However, with a little guidance and a common understanding of safety, we all can easily follow the path that best suits our family’s needs.
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