Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why We Won't Do Sleepovers

Whenever people talk to me about my Blog, the general theme I hear is that they are thankful I am real. That I don't pretend to be something that I am not. That I share my feelings, respect if people feel differently, but be who I am.

And so I want to continue to be real.

I initially hesitated to talk about this. Honestly, I don't want to be seen as a fuddy-duddy. I don't want to be seen as over-the-top. I don't want people to think my kids are stuck in a legalistic and too strict home.

But the truth is, I know none of those things are true. And I can't help what people think. I only need care what my God and my husband and a few choice confidants think of me.

That's it.

So here it is:

I am a mom who doesn't plan on doing sleepovers.

Firstly let me say that this is not an all or none rule. There may be times that something necessitates a child staying at our house. And yes, our boys have had to stay at someone else's house in the case of an emergency. In addition, in the Azores, we felt so incredibly comfortable with our neighbor Carla that her boys stayed at our house on more than one occasion.

However, we plan on having sleepovers as the exception not the rule. We plan to reserve them for very special occasions that are more mandated than desired.


Our reason is that we simply cannot risk our children being exposed to sexual predators. Obviously we cannot prevent all bad things in our children's lives. But we feel it is our duty to protect them as much as humanly possible.

My husband sees far too much of this in his work in the ER. The stories he can tell would leave your skin crawling. The things he sees and has to witness involving children and their exposure to terrible things is absolutely sickening.

It is to real to him. And subsequently, real to me.

Both JB and I have met people, personally, that were molested by "safe people" during sleepovers. People we know very well. Some of these children were abused by adults. But we actually were shocked to meet now grown adults who were molested by other children while having a sleepover at their own home.

In other words, kids -- the same age as they are -- did something to them during a sleepover.

Not okay.

Not even close to okay.

I wish this was not the world we lived in. I wish this was something that we did not have to fear. But here are the facts as I know them. According to the Darkness to Light Campaign:

In addition:
  • There are 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in the U.S.
  • 60% of child sexual abuse victims never tell anyone. 
  • Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize.
  • This year, there will be about 400,000 babies born in the USA that will become victims.
Even if you believe these numbers are not this high or these statistics are not accurate, even stats much lower than this are too risky for me.

Two articles really solidified our decision to avoid putting our children in these situations:
We actually take this a step farther. We go to nearly any length to avoid our child being at the home or in the presence of any male that is not in our intimate circle of people. 

We just cannot risk it. 

This means I will not allow my children to go to a friend's house (even to play) if there is a male present that I cannot basically stake my life upon this individual's reputation.

And even at that, my "opinion" is taking a chance.

If we have an older male boy stay at our house, even if he is a cousin, we closely monitor his involvement with our boys. We avoid leaving them alone, letting them close the door, and do not allow them to sleep in our boys' rooms. Obviously, things can also happen with girls, but we obviously feel the risk is so much more significant with males.

In addition, we don't believe that abuse is the only thing to fear when our children are staying at other people's homes. Exposure to television shows or video games or language that we don't approve of is also a genuine possibility.

We also go to great lengths to protect my husband's reputation. We avoid, at all costs, him being alone with another female in our home. He won't pick up or drop off a babysitter in our family. He won't have a young girl in his car (outside of emergency situations.)

I really try to be a positive person. I really want to believe the best in people. But I can be a bit of a Pollyanna when it comes to giving people the benefit of the doubt. And in this situation, I cannot risk it. It just isn't worth risking. My kids can still have a lot of fun without having slumber parties.

And if that makes me a fuddy-duddy?

Then so be it.

*****Update***** Please take a moment to read the comments to this post. I had many people point out that protection is needed for girls as well. I totally agree and was glad they really pointed out how lax we may have gotten in this area.

P.S. I would love to hear your opinions (nicely of course) on this topic!


Susie said...

Agree! I have worked as a mental health counselor for 13 years, most of that time with children and teens.... I cannot even tell you the amount of times I have called the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to report abuse, often sexual.... Often child on child and it has always been, whether the perpetrator was an adult or another child, someone that the victim already knew.

We are very limiting with our sleepovers and play dates too... Because as a therapist, just like a doctor,you can't unhear what you hear and you can't unseen what you have seen. Once you really see and learn what is happening out there, you realize that it is disturbing and it is terrifying. We have spent hours talking with our son and teaching him how to speak out if something happens and what is appropriate and what is not so that he is not clueless if he's ever in an unsafe situation.

Do what you think is right for your kids... Who cares what anyone else thinks.

Anonymous said...

Also a mental health counselor here, and want to say absolutely do what you need to do, but if you're assuming that by keeping unfamiliar males away from your kids, you're missing half the population of predators. The accounts of sexual abuse by females eclipses those by males by a long shot, and are generally more horrific. Women are not necessarily safe just because they're female. In fact, that assumption allows many predators access to children because who's going to suspect another mom?

Anonymous said...

Oops--that should have said "if you're assuming that by keeping unfamiliar males away from your kids, you're ensuring their safety, you're missing half the population of predators."

Melissa said...

I completely agree with you...Our family has the same rules. We are a foster family and have teen boys, so I am VERY cautious about protecting their reputation. It only takes one accusation! We are also very careful to protect our children from pornography. Many children are exposed while at a friends house. Like you, we have allowed some sleepovers, but they are definitely the exception and not the rule. We do offer "late nights" occasionally. This is when the child is allowed to stay over and play until "late" but then goes home to sleep in their own bed.

Alice said...

I totally agree with everything you said. We have four boys, ages 11-2. We also have strict rules about sleepovers. If it keeps my kids safe, I don't care one bit what other parents think of our choices. The lifelong repurcussions of even one incident are terrifying. I'd much rather be "too strict" and prevent something awful from happening than too lenient and have to deal with the aftermath. I think you and JB have made a wise decision.

Alice said...

My OCD will not let me leave repurcussions-I have to fix it to repercussions. My
spellcheck let me down! :0)

Anonymous said...

Please do NOT limit this to MALE predators. I was abused- brutally- sexually, physically and emotionally for 17 years by my father's mother.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the above commenters about needing to take precautions about women and girls as well. I know many people (including my husband and one of my brothers) who were sexually abused by women who were well-known to the family and trusted. In fact, I was sexually abused by a slightly older girl whil playing at her house. Her mother was at home, but we were allowed to play unsupervised in the playroom. I did not report the abuse, so it doesn't show up in the statistics, but sexual abuse by women and girls is just as real and just as dangerous.

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Thank you very much for the comments regarding teen girls and women. In our childhood, we experienced abuse by a girl as well and that is definitely something to note. Thank you for your candor and honesty. Very good point.

Jennifer said...

So glad you wrote this as my husband and I have made the same decision and it is so hard since most people still think it is okay. We are also very watchful on which houses we let our kids go and play at in the neighborhood. This makes it hard because some we feel comfortable at and others not. Takes lot of prayer.
We are thinking that maybe by high school we will start limited spending the night as we don't want them going wild once they are free for college. What are your thoughts on age?

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Jennifer, this is a good question. In general, I think the decision to "go wild" in college is a child's to make and is not a result of limited activities as a child. I had friends who went wild in college and they were wild in high school. I had friends who were sheltered in high school and they remained non wild in college. I really think it is more teaching our kids WHY we don't let them have sleepovers. Adults don't have sleepovers and I think telling them that it is a bad idea in college is good too. I want to teach my kiddos that putting themselves in a situation where someone can do something 'bad" to them is to be avoided at all costs. So in other words, I don't plan to limit it based on age. However, I WOULD consider limiting it based on the family. If the perfect family lived next door, there might be times for a bit of alteration but it has to be a case by case basis.

That was a pretty all over the place answer. :)

Bonnie Leigh said...

I'm a proud 'fuddy-duddy' right there with ya! I saw some of these articles and basically adopted the same stance for my son and daughter. There may be some exceptions, but generally we will not do sleepovers.

Another topic I'm very sensitive to is guns in the house. I might be 'that crazy mom', but I do intend to ask if there are guns in the house before letting my kids go over to play. If there are, then whether they are locked and secured. There have been too many incidents and recent articles about access to guns, both for young kids and for tweens and teens, and innocent accidents (or intentional teen issues). I am not totally opposed to guns, we had some safely locked growing up in a rural area, but many many people are not as safe with them as they think, especially these days. I'm sorry if I opened another can of worms, but I think it's sort of a related topic - and I'm sure it's one you encounter in a rural area too (though again, rural folks tend to be a little more cognizant and safe).

Thank you as always for good discussion and 'realness'!

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Bonnie, that is a relevant topic as well although I agree -- out here in the country, EVERYONE has a gun and asking that question is a probably wise. (Although truly people are so much more responsible with weapons in the country in my opinion.)

Ann said...

Wendi- completely agree with you!! Even though my 3 girls are still age two and under, my husband and I have already started talking about this. I had a friend in 5th grade who had me over for numerous sleepovers... Long story short, I believe it is by the grace of God that her father never molested me because I'm pretty sure he was molesting her. I had no clue about that back then (and I had parents who were very involved and probably over protective but they knew the mother so well that they let me.) I think 30 years ago, this kind of thing was just not at the forefront of people's minds like it is now... Anyway, all I have to do is think back to that house and that's enough for me to keep my girls home and away from sleepovers.

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Ann, I had a similar thing occur with a neighbor's dad. I was terrified of him. Years later I found out he had attempted to harm someone else I knew. So scary!

Margaret Chind said...

Is this a republished post, I completely feel like I've read it before! Yet still true, and same opinions here!

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Nope! Totally my new post. But I am sure the sentiments have been expressed by others elsewhere!