Your son just informed you that after the big holiday dance at school all the guys and girls are going to the twins Julia and Jacob’s house and spending the night. He explains that everyone going are just friends and the parents will be at home to supervise. He also describes the sleepover as a solution for your worries about him being out late and making risky decisions. So you are left with the question, “Is this a coed sleepover, and do I let my child go?”
Here are some of the teen rationales when asking for permission to attend a coed sleepover:
“Her parents are going to be there to supervise.”
Though the parents may, in fact, be home, most likely they will not be in the same room as the teens throughout the night. This idea of parents being home during a coed sleepover and providing supervision gives us a false sense of security. Kids are clever and know when to hide or stop certain behaviors when they hear a parent coming.
The idea of parents being home during a coed sleepover and providing supervision gives us a false sense of security.
An additional concern is that though we may have talked to these parents at the soccer game or high school orientation, we don’t always know their values and expectations. This parent may argue that they rather teens drink alcohol and have safe sex in their house instead of some place where a parent is not on location. So supervision may turn out worse than without a parent present.
“We are all just friends.”
Regardless of relationship status, these are teens with hormones. When teenagers are surrounded by the opposite gender and it is late at night, there is a lot of brain chemistry that starts contributing to behaviors which otherwise would have never happened. As parents, we are usually concerned about our daughters in this situation, but in recent years girls have become aggressive sexually too; here are some tips to help your sons stay clear of aggressive girls.
“Now you don’t have to worry about me being out late.”
Yes, we would worry about our children being out late whether they are driving or being driven. But spending the night somewhere brings with it a whole other set of concerns because there is no natural boundary or accountability at the end of the night. If they know they can skip the nightly inquisition, this may increase their boldness to try things they haven’t before.
The Case of Unintentional Coed Sleepovers:
What if your teen sleeps over at a house with an older sibling and he has his own friends over?
You may not be able to always prevent circumstances like these, but you can talk to your child about how to handle it if it does happen. Discussing scenarios and ways to respond provides the teen framework and empowerment to walk away from inappropriate situations. Be intentional about getting to know the friend’s family; you can gain an understanding of their boundaries and behavioral expectations just by observing. And remind your teens, it may be fun to hang out with older siblings, but the age gap of middle school to high school and high school to college are huge, not in numerical value but in perspectives and intentions.
Readers, what would you do if your kids were invited to a coed sleepover?
Paige Clingenpeel is a licensed teen therapist and has worked on TV, radio, and web-based media. Her passion is creating health, hope, and humor for youth and their families.