How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex
#8 No Sleepovers
Are you beginning to see why we chose to talk to our kids about sex starting at a young age as opposed to an older age? We couldn’t even approach today’s question had we not first laid the sturdy foundation: God created, the world corrupted. In answering the above question, we have to peel back the layers of, “the world corrupted.” BUT DO NOT START THERE. If you’ve never talked to your child about sex DO NOT start this conversation about sleepovers. Our kids had YEARS of conversation with us before we ever got to the underlining reason we didn’t do sleepovers.
Initially, when the kids were young (under 10 years old) it was very easy what we said about sleepovers, “we don’t do sleepovers!” “But whhhhhyyyyy?!” “Because it’s a family rule!” *pause* I love the family rule, family mantra, family code, family mission statement idea. Julie Barnhill introduced it to me in her book, “One Tough Mother”… READ IT! It’s this idea that we connect our kids to the family, “Littlejohns forgive!” “Littlejohns give one more scoop of ice cream!” “Littlejohns do hard things!” “Littlejohns honor one another above themselves!” “Littlejohns are always gracious!” And for a long, long time we would simply say, “Littlejohns don’t do sleepovers!” And it satisfied. That doesn’t mean they didn’t push back or they sang songs of praise and blessed our souls, but it worked.
Remember on day #3 how we talked about how 93% of juvenile sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know, in my private counseling practice sleepovers rank as the top event of where sexual abuse happened.
Sleepovers also are a prime opportunity where peers introduce each other to pornography. Sleepovers invite boredom, lack of adult oversight, darkness, close sleeping quarters, and mischief.
At some point, as our oldest entered the throws of tween-hood, I sensed our answer was not going to suffice. Young girls find their identity in friendships, sleepovers, and peer reviews. (And we had just dropped our FIFTH GRADER into a brand new community. Once again, Katie, I’m so sorry we did this to you. *Insert more money into the counseling fund*) Movies always portray sleepovers as the IT of growing up. I saw her wrestling with the idea that we were keeping this good thing from her simply because we were being mean.
One day, NOT IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT, we sat her down and explained with as much tact and as much clarity as we could why we weren’t fans of sleepovers. It went a little like, “Baby, when we sleep at night our bodies and our brains completely relax and go still. Our bodies and our minds are the most vulnerable they are all day when they sleep. We are not willing to let you be vulnerable in a home or in an environment we aren’t comfortable with or deeply knowledgeable about. Because sometimes in those situations when your guard goes down and you think are safe, someone has the prime opportunity to hurt you! This doesn’t have to be a forever rule. But right now this is our rule and it has always been there to protect you, not to keep good from you. And someday there will probably be a situation that we will be completely fine with you going to a sleepover, but until then we need you to trust us and not push back against this rule!”
I saw her brain begin to connect the dots and her whole body physically relaxed, and she said, “I didn’t realize that’s why you haven’t let us do sleepovers. I’m sorry for being so mean and so ugly about it!” And never again did she push back over the sleepover issue.
Our children are now 17, 15, 13, and 12, there are about 6 homes where they are allowed to routinely spend the night. Every home where they are allowed to spend the night we closely know the parents and the siblings living in the home. We know the family’s stance on devices, entertainment, and parental oversight. But we also have laid out specific guidelines and rules with each of our kids when they spend the night somewhere. No showering together, dress in a private area or in an area where there are no cameras, keep your hands to yourself, no sleeping in the same bed or under the same blankets. We also have a 100% call or text us if something makes you feel uncomfortable and we will be there immediately no questions asked.
At some point, each of our kids has thanked us for our no sleepover policy. It hasn’t always been easy or rosy, but we’ve never ONCE regretted our decision!