Children everywhere enjoy playing games, laughing and spending time with friends and often want to have sleepovers or slumber parties. Deciding when your child is ready to be on their own at someone's house and whether that environment is a safe place for your child can be a difficult decision. As parents and guardians it is our responsibility to make sure children are staying safe in these scenarios, so the following are some tips to safely navigate your child's sleepover:
- Meet the parents or adults who will be in the home to care for children for the entire time your child is there. Ensure adults are prepared to be with the children the entire time rather than leaving for work, the store, etc. Ask if there will be additional adults visiting the home to ensure you know who your child will be interacting with. Although it may be uncomfortable, it is important to ask safety questions of the adults who will be caring for your child during the sleepover.
- Ask if older children or adolescents will be in the home and what the sleeping arrangements are for the children. Since 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older children, it is important that we establish safety boundaries with adults as well as with any older children in the home.
- Check the Sex Offender Registry to verify the people your child may encounter are not registered offenders. The Sex Offender Registry allows you to search by name or location. Check it out by clicking here.
- If possible, visit the home to ensure the environment is safe and healthy. Ask if there are weapons in the home and if so, ensure that the weapons are secure and not accessible to children.
- Have a safety talk with your child about their private parts and their authority to say no to uncomfortable situations. Discuss some scenarios and create a safety plan for your child should an unsafe situation arise.
- Plan to call and check on your child during their sleepover.
- Will there be drinking or smoking? Discuss the rules and expectations with your child of not partaking in alcohol, drugs, or leaving the home with anyone not already discussed.
- Allow your child to call you at any time and let your child know that he/she will not be in trouble for contacting you.
- Create a code word your child can use on a text or phone call if they are in an unsafe situation and need a discreet way to tell you they are unsafe.
- Never force children to stay somewhere they are uncomfortable. Your child may not want to tell you if an unwanted interaction occurred, so paying attention to their non-verbal cues or indirect outcries can help you ensure your child is safe and protected.
Remember a key part of protection is defense. Part of defense is prevention. By talking to your child about personal safety and creating a plan of how to deal with uncomfortable situations, you are taking the first step in teaching self-care and empowerment. By verifying who will be present, what the evening will entail, and having a safety plan, you are taking the steps within your power to help keep your child safe.
About the Author
Kriste Moron has worked with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) for over a decade and has dedicated her career to the protection of children from abuse and neglect. Kriste currently supervises a Crimes Against Children unit within DFPS who work as part of a multidisciplinary team to ensure that children in our community are safe. In her free time, Kriste enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She is a passionate advocate for children in her personal and professional life.