QUESTION: Is it OK for your child to attend a sleepover when you have never met the parents?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: It depends on how old your child is. Seventh-grade through high school — no, it is not OK. My mom always knew the parents, and if she didn't, I couldn't go. If they are younger than that, I would be hesitant to let them as well.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: I have dealt with this issue often, and my short answer is, no, I don't let my children stay the night at someone else's house unless I know or have at least met the parents and talked to them long enough to feel comfortable about the situation. My children understand that rule exists no matter who invites them.
Usually, a child's invitation to a sleepover opens a door for me to meet new parents. I have handled this differently at different times. If it's to spend the night with a single friend, I suggest a play date first. If the sleepover is a birthday party, I call to explain my rule and find out who else is attending. Most parents understand because they have the same rules for their children. We want our children to be safe.
The parents are usually very open about who will be at home during the party, where the siblings will be and what the schedule is. Sometimes I let my children attend the party but then agree to pick them up later the same evening, so they don't spend the night. This is also a good solution if the kids have activities the next morning. Then, when we arrive at the party, I enjoy visiting with the parents before I leave for a while.
My daughter handled this situation in a creative way years ago, in first grade. She had gotten to know a new friend and came home from school one day to announce that I was to be at McDonald's at 6:30 that night to meet this friend and her dad. Puzzled, I was trying to figure out why, and she told me the two girls knew they couldn't play together until their parents had met each other. They wanted it to happen soon, so they arranged it.
While we didn't end up meeting at McDonald's that night, I called the mom and had a nice conversation with her. She and I, and our daughters, too, have been friends ever since, and now the girls are in middle school.
HELEN'S ANSWER: If your child is invited to a sleepover and you don't know the parents, call them and politely discuss the plans for the evening. Introduce yourself via telephone and find out who else is coming. Don't be shy about asking about activities, movies to be shown and the house rules.
If you know the parents of other children attending, do your research to inquire about the host parents and their sleepover rules. After you have talked to everyone, then make your decision.
Sleepover experiences can be great fun, but it is wise to know where you are sending your child. There are issues that must be addressed, such as when a child is ill or homesick. You need to know if kids can sneak out or if they ever get into fights or bully other kids.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Hilarie Blaney, etiquette and international protocol consultant: First, I would call and ask some questions regarding house rules and ask other parents that you know if they know the parents. The child's age is a factor as well. I would do some homework and decide what age-appropriate rules and length of time for the visit is appropriate.
Some of my best childhood memories are from when I was surrounded by friends, and this is a good way for children to learn social skills.
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