Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sleepovers

I'm a member of a Rotterdam expatriates Facebook group. It's a great place for discussions on Dutch culture, travel tips, and articles on parenting. Today a parent referred to James Dobson's attitude that sleepovers should be discouraged for safety reasons. Not surprisingly, other parents commented with their own opinions, and it turned into a fascinating discussion. Is the discouraging of sleepovers just fear-mongering? Or a good policy for concerned parents in today's world? Some people responded to the post in just a few words, while others wrote long replies. Here's mine.


As expats, we're already creating a different-than-average life for ourselves and our children. We question educational methods, the price of renting-vs-buying, and the safety of biking in the city. Then we decide what is right for our own families. Why not question the value of sleepovers?


I went to a lot of sleepovers between ages 6-16, and while nothing 'bad' ever happened to me, I can definitely say that there were topics and jokes that made me uncomfortable (and/or that would have been uncomfortable to tell to my parents). My friends were from good families, but without supervision it's easy to get caught up in the moment and not think clearly. "If all the kids are doing it, it can't be bad, right?" The coolest kids - and the most fascinating stories/songs/games/tv shows - aren't necessarily healthy for social or sexual development. As kids, they don't understand that, of course! Education on its own, without a moral compass, isn't enough, I think. Without the inner strength to make their own choices, they may still give in to peer pressure or let someone touch them in a wrong way.
As a parent I would want to encourage my kid(s) to be honest, both with me and with their friends. I think it's important to teach them to respectfully say, "I don't want to talk about that. Can we talk about something else?" when in doubt. I've seen plenty of blogs and articles on teaching our kids about body privacy (hugely important, by the way), but what about mind privacy? I don't want someone to touch my child(ren) in an unsafe way, but I also don't want others to fill their minds with age-inappropriate stories or jokes. I doubt the answer is to lock children away in a tower and never let them have friends (ha!) but I think we can be more creative in protecting their innocence - both physical and emotional/mental. Just because modern society says something - like sleepovers - is 'normal' doesn't mean we should accept that blindly....

*The photo for this post is of a cool row of Clipper tea boxes I found at the grocery store.

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