parents

Group Therapy: 'Should I let my daughter have a sleepover?'

By JAMES WILKINSON

I had a conversation with a colleague recently about our daughters when the topic of sleepovers came up. While this is still a little way off for me (she is only three) it caused me to wonder what I will do when the time comes.

“I never let my girls have sleepovers,” he said. They are ten and eight years old. “I won’t even let them stay at their grandparents overnight.”

“Why not?” I asked

“Well you never know who might drop in on them when they are there and you can’t even really trust your relatives or close friends. They are not going to tell you that they are child molesters are they?”

Holy crap!

Is this guy overprotective or is this what we have to do to ensure the safety of our kids? Are there more child predators around or do we just hear about it more in the current social climate with the technology available?

The thing that I find the most difficult to get my head around is that the perpetrator is much more likely to be the trusted family friend or relative rather than some unknown, creepy dude from down the street.

Don’t get me wrong – “stranger danger” is very real however statistics show an overwhelming amount of sexual abuse is inflicted by somebody who is known and trusted by the family.

We go to great lengths to educate and protect our children from “strangers” but nothing is ever said about the much more real danger of “family friends” and “friends of friends”.

Stay-at-home dad James Wilkinson

When I asked some other friends about this the general consensus was that it was OK for your kids to sleep over their friends houses if you have met the friend’s parents and thought that they were alright. Fair enough I suppose but how would you ever know?

Even if you knew the family your child was staying with really well would you know if any kind of abuse was occurring? These things are not as obvious as you might imagine and people are always surprised when the stories of abuse eventually surface as they almost always do.

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While I don’t want to be the Dad that says “No you can’t go,” is it more important to protect my child than it is to let her have fun? Is it worth the risk? Is there a risk?

As kids we had lots of freedom and we were always sleeping at each other’s houses on the weekends and during holidays from about 7 years old. Is it different now? Is it different for boys than girls?

These confronting questions keep running through my head. Will I let my girl have sleep overs at her friend’s houses? Am I just your average overprotective father?  How can I protect my little girl without spoiling her fun? Does my lack of trust signify something in me?

While I am an advocate for teaching children about their body parts and that some of those parts are private, those kinds of preventative techniques ultimately rely on the child for implementation.

I would not expect my daughter to control the household finances or even a motor vehicle for example but these techniques expect her to be mature enough to know the difference between good and bad touching.

Considering the ambiguous nature of some kinds of sexual abuse, this is difficult enough for some adults to fathom so how can we expect our children to understand the difference?

As a father I believe that I need to play a more active role in this matter until she is old enough to fend for herself but I have no idea how to do this without being both a killjoy to my daughter and accusatory towards our family friends?

I know in my heart that my daughter is safe with all of our friends but unfortunately the statistics would not support this hypothesis and if I am wrong, I won’t know until it’s too late.

This will require much more thought and hopefully I’ll have a few years to get my head around it before I have to make these decisions.

Any input would be greatly appreciated…

James Wilkinson is a stay home dad, the husband of a corporate wife, a writer and a musician.You can find his blog here.

Do you let your children have sleepovers? Do you have any advice for James?