By Melissa Ford
I like to keep my finger on the pulse of all things parents and kids. Reading books, online articles and blogs, attending workshops and seminars as well as conferring with other professionals who support families, helps me stay abreast. But my #1 best source for parenting advice and latest updates on the world of kids?
Parents, currently, in the trenches.
With the onset of summer, what do these experts recommend to fill those long, lazy days when their kids are staring at months of free time? I queried parents over the phone, during workshops, via email and Facebook, even in line at the grocery store: “How do you keep your kids busy, safe, and having fun in the summer? What activities do your kids enjoy?”
From vacations to camps, play dates to summer jobs - parents’ responses were varied. The most insightful reply came from one parent about a summertime activity her teens do not participate in - teen sleepovers. By publicizing this parent’s email below, it’s my intent to support parents to navigate those teen years with greater ease, regardless of the season.
As we enter summer, sleepover season is in full swing. As parents, many of us recall sleepovers through grade school and possibly middle school. However, the trend in the last several years has moved toward the acceptance of teen sleepovers. With the awareness that our community has a teen substance abuse problem at nearly double the national average, it may be wise to consider why many teens seek out sleepover opportunities.
Teen sleepovers often provide the possibility of an entire night with little or no supervision. Even the most vigilant parents who host them are likely to go to sleep before their teenagers do. It’s very easy for teens to outlast the parents, drink or smoke until early in the morning, sleep until noon, and then go home to their own unsuspecting parents. Unless the host parents want to sit up most of the night, it’s nearly impossible to provide even minimal supervision.
Most teens have curfews of ten, eleven, or twelve o’clock, which gives them plenty of opportunity for fun with friends. Kids who go home at those hours can be met by parents who are able to assess just what kind of night they have had with their friends. This also creates a good opportunity for communication about peer situations.
If you don’t believe this is happening, next time your teen asks to sleep over at a friend’s house, offer your house instead. Teens often choose specific homes where they know there is the least supervision. You’ll probably find that the location of the sleepover matters very much to your child.
Plenty of fun can be had before midnight. Having your teens come home and be accountable is developmentally appropriate. It communicates your expectation that they behave responsibly. Every kid will test the limits and mess up now and then, but why not hold out a higher expectation? Why not give them an excuse to tell their friends, “I can’t – my parents wait up for me.”