Sleepovers - good or bad idea?
Posted by: Brigitte Rozario, 22-Dec-2011
By SHAMALA VELU
Mention the word sleepover and some parents become apprehensive. It's not unusual to have nightmares wondering whether your child is safe, or whether the kids are involved in activities that you don't approve of.
The truth is, kids have a wonderful time just being with their friends and having fun. At some point, your kids will be pleading with you to let them spend the night at their friend's house. So, is it a good idea or not?
Two parents share their opinions:
Manjit Kanesan, mother to Roshan, 21, Ashereen, 19, and Akash, 12:
"It's absolutely fun for the kids to have sleepovers as they get to spend time with a selective group of good friends. I don't have to worry about carting them from the cinema or futsal court or pool. They are in a safe, healthy environment where they get to spend an equal time indoors as well as outdoors. I can monitor their activities and ensure they are not in front of the TV or computer all the time. It's like a big indoor camping expedition. At bedtime, I sometimes overhear them laughing and talking about what they have done in the day and also about their favourite football teams.
However, the downside is that sometimes, it's not very easy to get them to sleep early. They will be chatting long after lights are out and may be tired after a sleepover. They can sometimes get into tiffs and end up a little emotional over small things. That can be very noisy.
In my opinion, a child will develop positively as they learn to share and how to give-and-take. They have to look after their own belongings and this makes them more responsible. It teaches them not only to be more independent, but also how to be more sensitive to others.
My sisters and I used to go for sleepovers very often when we were young and we used to really look forward to them.
I know that Akash also looks forward to sleepovers with his friends. Normally, he will organise a pool party at home, followed by playing ball in the garden. Next, they have snack time and TV time. Sometimes, they try to make a mini movie! They also play board games such as Monopoly or carrom. When they are finished with that, the Nerf guns come out and they run around the house!
Parents definitely need to monitor the activities during a sleepover. I personally do not encourage time on the computer or Xbox games. My husband sometimes sits with them and they chat about football and sports games. If I'm not around, I make sure that my eldest son keeps an eye on them.
I guess I am particular about where my son has his sleepovers and that his friends have more or less the same values as us. As parents, we are entrusted with keeping our friends' children safe, so having the same values is important. I will be able to sleep easily knowing that my child is in a secure environment and vice versa.
I try to get to know the parents first before sleepovers are encouraged. Better to be safe than sorry later.
Akash had his first sleepover when he was about nine years old. I think that is a good age to have sleepovers because they are old enough to be independent. The level of responsibility varies from child to child but in my opinion, most children are well behaved when they are in another person's house."
Azlin Ghazali, father to Aina Syasya, 16, Anis Syaza, 14, Ahmad Sirhan, 12 and Muhammad Alif Safwan, 7:
"Children do get to know their friends better when they go for sleepovers. Not only do they learn and understand more about their friend's background, but they also become more aware of how they live.
I'm sure in every household there are rules and norms that will differ to some degree. Assuming that a child is able to differentiate between good and bad, this can be a positive thing. It will be a good experience if a child is exposed to positive qualities as it will help to build his or her character.
There will also be a feeling of trust between parents, too. Parents hosting the sleepover will feel honoured that the visiting child's parents have entrusted their child to them.
However, on the downside, children may be shocked if the household rules and values are different from their own. This can be a negative thing especially if the child becomes confused and doesn't understand why there are differences.
Sleepovers can cause some degree of inconvenience to the hosting family as well. Having someone in the house requires some adjustment and might not be favourable to everyone at home.
For example, Muslim women are expected to wear the 'tudung' (head scarf) in the house when there are male visitors. I worry if my child will cause inconvenience to the hosting family, especially if they are not used to these rules and norms.
I worry about safety and that family values may be compromised when children go for sleepovers. In fact, there is no way to find out or determine the values of a hosting family.
I went to a boarding school (Royal Military College) in Kuala Lumpur as my parents are from Kedah. Occasionally, I would sleep over at a friend's house in KL during short breaks because it was too far to go back to Kedah.
I reluctantly allow my children to bring their friends home to stay. When they do, I always make it a point to explain to other family members what is expected of them to ensure that our guest is comfortable.
Basic things such as having good meals, eating on time, praying on time, playing safely and no fighting are important to me. I find it takes a lot of effort and commitment on the part of the hosting family.
When I send my child for a sleepover, I expect the hosting parent to do the same. However, I'm not convinced other people will go through the same trouble as I do. I can only assume they will take care of things. There is no way of finding out what happens in other people's homes, right?
I would be more comfortable if my child did not go for sleepovers. The other thing I worry about is that the values of the hosting family are different from mine. You may find things similar at the surface but who knows what goes on behind the scenes? I don't allow my children to sleep over at the relatives' and grandparents' homes without me or my wife.
Parents need to monitor the activities of children during a sleepover and ensure they have a positive learning experience.
When I'm not comfortable sending my children for sleepovers, I tell them it will be an inconvenience to the hosting family. I feel there is enough time in the day to do whatever needs to be done so sleepovers are not necessary.
I also ask them to give me a strong reason why they need to go for a sleepover. For me, having fun is not an acceptable reason.
I personally don't see the need for children to go for sleepovers. I believe night time is for the family to be together. Whatever the kids want to do, they can do during the day.
Having said that, the ideal age for sleepovers is 16 and above. At this age, they know how to behave and will understand what is required of them. I recently allowed my 16-year-old daughter go for a sleepover at her friend's house after being asked several times. My daughter's friend has been at our place twice and my daughter wanted to catch up with her school work, so I allowed it. (She missed school during the Haj.)
My advice to parents is to prepare their child and tell them what they can and cannot do at a sleepover. They should learn to respect the hosting family's privacy and values. Also, try to determine if the environment will be suitable for your child. I strongly believe the environment in which a child is exposed to shapes his or her character and values."
Interesting discussion on sleepover. In Oz, kids start sleepovers from a young age, in Year 1 or 2 (about 7-8 years old). With our oldest girl, we held off until she was in Year 5. In that year, she went for two nights in camp, so we discussed with her and decided she was responsible enough. She enjoyed the sleepovers and friendships do develop in a different way. She is in Year 8 now and has quite a few sleepovers, but we will select the families who we know are responsible and will do the same things and have the same values as us. We know our daughter will be safe with them.
AS for me, I'm very worried about the safety of my child when he / she sleeps over at a friend's place. TO be precise, I'm talking about anything related to sex.
Of course I can educate them about it, but what if they get violated by an adult or an older member of the host at their friend's place? Sometimes the people we know and trust for years, turn out to be a different person by surprise. So I will need a whole lot of convincing done to me before I let my child go over to a friend's place overnight.
I had my first sleepover for my 8th bdthriay. I had a lot of friends who came to my house for sleepovers but I wasn't allowed to go to many people's house for sleepovers until I was a teenager. My house was always the fun place to be though and looking back on it my mom was the smartest mom on the block. She let us stay up till 4:15 in the morning when I was 8 years old, let us put on make-up (even her good make-up), let us eat ice cream sundaes until we were sick, and we had a nutritious dinner of pizza! No one ever wanted to go to anyone else's house! No I understand why she did it. She wanted to keep an eye on us! My house was always full of at least 5 girls every weekend. When I would suggest to a friend to have a sleepover at THEIR house they would say, No way, your mom is cooler than mine! We never got into any trouble at my house and my mom was a saint for letting us drive her nuts. I hope to be 1/2 as cool a mom as she was so my child will want to stay at our house with their friends. That way, at least I know they are safe! We also had a code word if I did stay at someone else's house. I could call her and say the code word, such as, so, what did you all have for dinner tonight? with the code word being dinner and she would make some excuse as to come and pick me up from that person's house. No questions were ever asked of me, but I was brought home and was safe if I wanted to be out of a bad situation. I can remember many a time parents getting drunk and me feeling weird about it and calling my mom. She always let me go back to someone's house because I was responsible enough to call if it got out of hand. The worst thing I experienced was at 11 with my friend's mom and her boyfriend up on the pool table stripping. Yes, her daughter was humiliated and we BOTH called my mom to come and get us and she spent the rest of the weekend at my house. ha.ha.