Ensure your kids have safe sleepovers
The summer has officially kicked-off! The island is vibrant with kids riding bikes, pool parties, sleepovers, and summer camps. You make sure they are prepared with helmets and swim lessons, but have you thought about how to prepare them so that they are safe when they’re away overnight?
Sleepovers are one of the exciting joys of childhood and can lead to many positive growth opportunities for children. However, with the stark reality that 90% of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know and trust, you might be wondering how you can keep your child safe while allowing them to make sleepover memories.
The most important thing you can do is trust your gut. Pay attention to your instinct and react accordingly. Think about your child and ask yourself if you think they are ready. Consider their age, their experiences, and whether they’ve been away from home before. Next, think about what your hard and fast rules are. These are your non-negotiable rules for your child’s safety that might include everything from what video games you allow your child to play to how you feel about adults consuming alcohol while your child is in the home. Spoiler: “No uninterruptible one-one-one situations with adults or other children” should be one of your hard and fast rules!
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
How well do you know this family? What have previous interactions been like? Can you talk with the parent(s) about any concerns or needs? If not, consider this a negative on the gut-check meter.
What is the household like? Does the house itself seem safe? What are the sleeping arrangements?
What kind of adult supervision will there be and who else will be present? Will other adults be around? Older youth?
How does the family monitor internet usage? Where are the computers and video game systems located and what rules are in place? For older children and teens, consider asking about rules around cell phone usage (are they allowed to use them at all times, in all areas of the home?). Have your own digital safety conversation with your child beforehand and include that what is shared online is public and permanent.
What safety and comfort contingencies can you put in place? Talk to your kids about different scenarios to help them feel comfortable with facing the unforeseen.
What check-in points can you put into the mix? Maybe a call or text before bedtime? Are drop-ins okay?
Plan to talk to your child privately after the sleepover, too. Resist the urge to discuss your child’s behavior or experience with the supervising adults in front of your child. This can often pressure the child into feeling that they should report that everything was ok, even if the experience wasn’t. For instance, mom asks, “Did you have fun?” and the child feels compelled to answer, “Yes, I had fun.” Instead, spend some time asking your child about the sleepover away from the other family and their home.
Did you enjoy yourself? How did you spend your time?
What was your favorite part of the sleepover? What was the least favorite part? Would you want to do it again?
Did you feel safe?
Was there anything else that you wanted to share?
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed at first, we know it can be difficult to imagine someone you know hurting your kid. However, being prepared will actually help you and your kids feel empowered. Learn more about how to talk to kids about body safety and boundaries at www. DIPROTECTSKIDS.com.
Katherine Lee is a former Daniel Island resident and a 2006 graduate of Bishop England High School. She serves as communications strategist for Darkness to Light, a non-profit empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse.