made its way to my Facebook page.
My condensed opinion stated:
“If I had to raise children over again,
I wouldn't allow them to sleep over at their friend's home,
and I wouldn't let their friends sleep over at my home.
As a result of my Twitter/FB post, there were many requests to clarify my comment. This brought me to the opinion that many families struggle with this topic and are seeking wisdom and answers on how to handle the topic of overnight sleepovers. Thus, this blog is dedicated to those who want clarification on why I would make such a blatant statement. Obviously, only so much can be said in the 180 Twitter limit. So, let me continue, and give me grace as a parent who allowed my children to spend the nights out and attend sleepovers when they were growing up. It is not that I haven’t had the same concerns as many of you. My children are now 32, 30, and 28 years old, so I am looking back as a child, a parent, and a grandma.
It seems to me that parents need to decide themselves what is best for their own children. I believe that Biblically, children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Thus, I believe parents should seek wisdom and discernment before making decisions for their family (James 1:5). And finally, parents should trust that the Holy Spirit will guide them in whatever decisions, including sleepovers, they face while child-rearing (John 16:13).
In my opinion, parents are responsible for the welfare of their children. God says it, and I believe it. As parents, our children’s safety should be foremost in mind. I am not advocating that our children should never spend the night at your parent’s house, your sister’s house, or your best friend’s house. I am talking more about when your child is asked to spend the night at a friend’s home from school where you don’t know the parents well or your child is asked to attend a birthday slumber party. Of course, parents are responsible for their children at all ages. Eventually, concerns you encounter when your child is young will one day become requests for prom overnights or coed sleepovers. Yes, even church events are now having boy-girl sleepovers, so parents need to be pre-prepared and have an answer at hand. I remember one of my children not quite understanding why I would not let him spend the night at a church member's home where both teenage boys and girls were spending the night. Yes, it was tough to say no, but in the long run, did it hurt him? NO. Plus, hopefully, he saw that we cared and loved him that we did not want to put him in any vicarious situation. I feel very strongly that whether a parent’s response to all sleepovers is a firm NO or they if they have a “depends on the circumstances” opinion, parents should discuss beforehand what they will do when the situations occur. It is very important for both parents to agree on all decisions regarding their children. Personally, I remember, as a 6th grader, being invited to slumber party at my next door neighbor’s house. Things were fun at first, but later, after the parents turned in, the activities around 2:00 a.m. turned to Ouija boards and séances. Yes, it seemed very innocent at first, but by 3:00 a.m., the fear of evil that I (and some of the others faced) was unbelievable. Some of us were immobile with fright. It was my first experience with what I will call pure evil. I survived and went on being a kid, but it is something my parents still do not know to this day that happened. It was something that shouldn’t have happened to someone at my age. I remember wanting to just run home next door, but the darkness outside petrified me. It was unexpected, unforeseeable, and definitely a spiritual event that affected my life. In Christianity Culture (6-24-2014), Denny Burk writes that James Dobson believes that the day of sleepovers have passed, but in reality there are still some “spending the night” events that do occur, and as a parent, it seems to me, that we need to be concerned about the wide range of activities and risks that occur at sleepovers - from playing doctor and watching inappropriate movies to predators, pornography, guns, sexual temptations, date-rape, chat rooms, and other capricious dangers. If we take our God given responsibility seriously, remember that God has promised that He will guard us [and our children] from evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
Asking God for wisdom and discernment in making decisions for our family and in each overnight decision is a wise thing to do. When praying for wisdom and discernment God can and will give us His opinion on each unique situation we encounter. When we are pre-prayed and consistently read God’s Word, we will be guided as to what the Lord desires us to say and do regarding both our own children and other parents. We may incur some temporary wrath from our children, but then again, maybe not. I remember once when our daughter was in 4th grade. She was invited to a classmate’s slumber party. We did allow her to go. She was trained in our house rules about what movies we allowed her and her brothers to watch. At that particular time, our children were only allowed to watch G movies. Our daughter went to the party, and soon after arriving, we received a call from her. She said, “Mom, they are watching a PG movie, what should I do?” I thanked her for calling and advised her to go into another room and do something else. And do you know what happened? God, in his infinite wisdom, provided an escape. Almost immediately, the other girls stopped watching the movie and joined our daughter in playing with the dolls and other toys she was playing with in the other room. It is a wise thing to train your children in what to do if they encounter situations that are opposed to your family values. In another instance, one of our sons went to a 10th grade party. We told him to call us if there was any drinking involved and we would pick him up. It was only 8:00 p.m. when the beer was being transported from an older brother’s car to the house. We received the call that there was alcohol there. Our son found a ride home, and by 8:30 that evening, he was home with us. So, be assured that God can and will take care of your children when you seek Him. Children and teens will encounter tough predicaments, and we must prepare them how to respond. I doubt if years later any of those teens remember that our son left the party. I can probably guarantee that it won’t be brought up at his upcoming 10 year high school reunion either. When, we pray for our children, pray for a hedge of protection them, and let them know how to respond if that hedge is opened just a little bit. I always told our kids that God gave me a sense if they were doing something wrong that I would know. I meant it too and I think they believed it. Due to prayer, wisdom, and His discernment, I could tell if something was going on that wasn’t right with our kids. I also prayed and told our kids that I prayed that they would always get caught if they did something wrong. They usually were caught and what better deterrent could there be than to know they would get caught if they ventured out into the wrong direction. When God gives you that discernment when overnight requests are brought to you, use it to guide your decision making processes. (James 1:2-5).
I feel very strongly that the Holy Spirit can give you peace in how to answer the tough questions regarding spending the nights out. John 16:13 states that, “When the Spirit of truth comes; he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” The Holy Spirit will guide you to ask the right question regarding whether or not to allow your children to spend the night out. Some that you may encounter at various age levels are:
- Who will be there? Parents, older brothers, older sisters, uncles, aunts.
- How vulnerable is your child to peer-pressure?
- How can I screen a parent’s home or the party situation without offending the parents?
- What will happen in the case of an emergency?
- What movies will be shown? The ratings, horror movies, etc.
- What kind of supervision will be there?
- Is there a pool, gun, or Internet access available?
- Are you concerned with sleep deprivation?
- Will the opposite sex be there at any time?
- Regarding slumber parties, will the parents be home and up ALL NIGHT?
- Will there be alcohol or drugs at the party?
- Can I trust my teen?
- Will the kids be leaving the house at all for a movie or out to eat?
Then, there will be comments from your own children you need help in dealing with:
- It’s not fair.
- Everyone else’s parents are letting them go.
- I am old enough.
- Don’t you trust me?
- I am a good kid.
In my opinion, with all this to think about, we have to trust God with our needs. We should pray and ask the Lord by His Holy Spirit to show you His will in each and every situation. Then, we must be willing to do what we feel in our heart He is saying to you and/or your spouse. Trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you, and respect how He leads other parents too. As I have learned, there is a lot at stake in decisions we make for our children. While we don’t want to over-protect our kids, we don’t want to put them in situations that could affect the rest of their lives. Trust God and his Holy Spirit for direction.
I personally believe parents need to decide what is best for their children. In my hypothetical Facebook post, I am speaking as a parent who has already raised my kids. If I had to do it over again, I would not just randomly allow my children to spend the night over with acquaintances or attend sleepovers. It seems that there are more dangers prevalent now than 30 years ago, so we are looking at different times and different circumstances. And for those who asked why I would limit sleepovers at my house also – I think it would just be for consistency sake actually! But one thing I know for sure is that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And, with the responsibility we have to raise our children, it would be wise to remember that we need to decide what is best for our children, we need to seek wisdom, and we need to possess discernment, and we need to follow God’s leading in all situations, including this one!
1 Kings 3:9-12
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Patti Londa Greene, Author
Awaken Me: A Devotional Prayer Journal
God, It’s Me: 181 Days for Young Adults to Become Passionate about Prayer and Bible Study
(Coming Summer, 2014)
Available on Amazon.com and BN.com