You can’t chose your family but you can chose your friends, so choose wisely. Are your friends trusted and responsible enough to leave your most prized possession with them, your child? Putting your child's safety into someone else's hands is huge. You may experience a roller coaster of emotions when they are away from you. While you are gone you think about your child the whole time, check your phone every 20 minutes and maybe call to "check in" more than a few times. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy. It's common for moms to break down and cry, especially on the first night away from their baby. Even celebrities like Mila Kunis have been known to break down when leaving their little ones.
As our children grow older letting them go gets a little easier. Some days we want them to go somewhere, anywhere, and basically push them out the door. Your child will eventually become their own person and make their own friends. We can lead by example and just hope they make good choices. Sooner or later the big first sleepover will happen. It’s scary! The first sleepover at their friend’s house is like leaving them for the first time all over again. Except this time you are not making the decision on who will care for your child. Your child has made their own decision about who their friends are. It is important to know, and approve of, who your kids are hanging out with. If you are ready to let your child have their first sleepover make sure they are picking good quality friends. Here are 15 signs to look for that might mean your child chose a shady sleepover buddy.
15 Who’s your Daddy?
The most important thing to do before letting your child spend the night at a friend’s house is to meet the parents or guardians. Hang out and get to know them a little bit. You don’t have to become BFF’s but you need to know the people who are responsible for keeping your child safe. It’s also a good idea to have their address and phone number on hand and leave your information for them as well. Make sure the parents know if your child has any allergies or special diets. Food allergies can be potentially deadly and affect 1 in every 13 children in the U.S. If the parents are unwilling to meet with you or make adjustments to fit the needs of your child then you should think twice about letting your child sleepover at their house.
14 Bullies and Bad Guys
This is the era of disrespectful kids. Kids get away with being disrespectful to parents and teachers and therefore treat their classmates with disrespect. It’s hurtful to see your kid being bullied, but it would be even more hurtful to know your kid is the bully. At the early age of 2, kids need to learn how to treat others with respect. When a child gets away with everything it only adds fuel to the fire. Grown up bullies, or bad guys, can be dangerous. Once they reach a certain age a bully will be as uncontrollable as a wildfire. In today’s world, cyber bullying happens a lot. It is a public issue with more than 1 in 3 young adults receiving cyber threats online. We don't want our children to be around mean girls like Playboy Bunny Dani Mathers. They might just end up with embarrassing nude pictures online! Anti-bullying campaigns and trending hashtags such as #AntiBullyingWeek #StandUpToBullying have been created to discourage bullying.
13 The Blame Game
CRASH! You walk into the room and there is broken glass on the floor “who broke my vase?” you yell with anger in your voice. “It wasn’t me” your child lies with fear of getting in trouble. All children lie. Teaching children about the importance of honesty early and teaching them how to resolve situations so they don't need to rely on lying will ensure they will be honest -- most of the time," says Victoria Talwar, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at McGill University in Montreal. When does lying go from innocent white lies to a serious problem? If the vase was broken by accident, it’s normal for a child to blame someone else to avoid getting in trouble. If the child premeditates the lie and plans to break the vase and then blame it on a friend with the intention of trying to get them in trouble, that's a problem. When the lying is being done with the intention to hurt your child or someone else then you may want to encourage your child to find a new sleepover buddy.
12 Food is Scarce
When you leave your child with someone you expect that they will be cared for and fed. Every family has different eating habits and, with the exception of allergies, you cannot expect a family to change the way they eat when your child comes over. One in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. It is heartbreaking to know we have so many children in the U.S. who wake up hungry and go to bed hungry. We all know sleepovers are filled with pop, candy and junk food, it is part of the fun, but when you leave your child overnight you expect them to have access to some nutritious or 'real' food. When your child is staying with a friend and eating only a whole can of icing for dinner, that’s a sign to find a new sleepover spot.
11 New Vocabulary Words
74 percent of Americans said they encounter profanity in public frequently. While 64 percent said they use the mother of all foul words the ‘F-word’. Not all that shocking, right? Chances are your children have heard foul words and they have probably let one slip a time or two. I think most parents would agree that we try to refrain from letting the foul language fly around our kids and especially in front of our kid’s friends. When it does slip out, and it does happen, our children need to be aware of what they can and cannot say. If your child comes home from their friends house with a new vocabulary of foul words that may be a warning sign. If they start cussing like a sailor, acting like it’s no big deal, in everyday conversation -- it might be time to take a break from that slumber party and remind them about the appropriate language they should be using.
10 Sneaking Around
When you think about sneaking around as a kid we automatically jump to our teenage years. Your child doesn’t necessarily have to be a teenager to sneak around and hide things from you. In today’s world when a 9 year old has a smart phone and ‘how to make a viral video’ is a suggested search option on google, it’s a no brainer that kids are going to sneak around and do crazy dumb things hoping they will catch it on video. Sneaking around and pulling pranks can start well before the teenage years. Make sure your child’s sleepover buddy does not make sneaking out of the house a habit. It can go from harmless fun to deadly in the blink of an eye. If your child’s friends are encouraging your child to sneak out that is a huge warning sign. My hometown had a devastating tragedy when Skylar Neese was encouraged to sneak out by her two best friends and they murdered her in cold blood. As a result, West Virginia legislators unanimously passed Skyler’s Law, which requires an Amber Alert when a child goes missing unless it can be proved that the child ran away or has a history of taking off.
9 The Flaky Friend
Your child is sitting in their room with their bags packed ready to go to a sleepover. The hours go by and it’s hard for you to watch them wait for a flaky friend. Sometimes they make plans and cancel at the last minute, sometimes they don’t even bother to call and say they aren’t coming. Young kids will bounce back quickly and get over it. At a certain age it gets harder. They begin to think about what they’ve done wrong or if their friend got a better offer. It can take an emotional toll on a child to feel left out. Especially in the day of social media. When your every move is posted online and you see all the people who were supposed to call you hanging out and posting pictures. Friendship is a two way street, so if any of your kids friends are making it one way, run them off the road to make room for new friends.
8 Older Siblings
When you meet the parents of your child’s sleepover buddy it’s also good to know if there are any older siblings in the house. Older siblings can open up a whole new world of inappropriate behaviors at a sleepover, especially if the older sibling is of the opposite sex. Younger siblings are often exposed to the interests and activities of teenagers while they themselves are still in elementary school or even preschool. When I was in high school my friends and I went to a Halloween party, got trashed, and went back to my house. What I didn’t know was that my little sister had two friends spending the night. We woke up the whole house because we were screaming and falling all over the place. My little sister cried and said I embarrassed her. I was in big trouble! My mom was constantly telling me to set a good example for my sisters. I had no intention of exposing them to my teenage behaviors but it happens. If your child’s sleepover buddy has any older siblings take some time to get to know them and make sure you are comfortable having your child around them.
Older siblings tend to open up the door to easily accessible alcohol at a sleepover. Just because there’s not any older siblings doesn’t mean alcohol won’t be available. The Washington Post put out a surprising article that says only 30 percent of American adults don’t drink at all. So the odds are there will be alcohol in the home your child is sleeping at. You want your child to be strong and say no to alcohol, but peer pressure can be a bitch! A lot can happen overnight when alcohol is involved and typically drinking alcohol leads to more bad decisions. If your child’s friend is sneaking alcohol on the regular that is a sure sign of a shady sleepover buddy.
6 Masturbation Mishaps
Masturbation is something we do not want to think about when it comes to our kids. I know I’m not the only one who gets totally uncomfortable with this subject! It is surprisingly very common in children and typically starts as early as 5 or 6 years old. Almost 100 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls have masturbated to the point of an orgasm by age 15. Most of the time masturbation is a normal part of childhood development. Children want to explore their bodies and figure out how they work. So how can you tell if it’s just kids being curious or if there is a more serious problem? If you see these signs from your child or their sleepover buddy you may want to consult with your pediatrician:
- If there is an understanding or attempt at the two-sidedness of a sex act
- If there is mouth to genital contact
- If the activity becomes compulsive or interferes with day to day activities
- If the activity is painful or intrusive
- If the child is stressed, unhappy or sad
- If it seems to be accompanied by a trauma
5 Things Go Missing
Friends share. That’s a lesson we teach or children at a very young age. Part of sharing is returning the item when you are done. If you child’s belongings go missing time and time again at the same friend’s house you might want to do a little digging. Do random things go missing when that same friend is visiting your house? Does it happen more often than not? If the answer is yes, then your child may be dealing with a friend who is kleptomania or someone who has the need to steal things. Make sure your child does not take anything of value or importance to that friend’s house and keep an eye on them if they come to your house. If the stealing continues to be a problem you might want to talk with your child about finding a new sleepover buddy and keeping that friend as a school or social settings friend.
4 Hygiene Doesn't Happen
Personal hygiene includes a number of daily routines that help keep your body clean. When your child is at the age to attend sleepovers they should have a good grasp on their own healthy hygiene routine including; washing their hands, brushing their teeth, taking a shower and wearing clean (ish) clothes. Hygiene isn't just about your body, its about the way you live. Your house needs a hygiene routine as well -- dirty dishes in the sink, dirty laundry in the hamper, wipe the table after you eat. We all have a messy house while the kids are at home, my laundry hamper is usually overflowing, but there is a difference between messy and straight up filthy. Do you want your child sitting on a toilet seat that’s as dirty as a public gas station? I’ll pass. If your child has a friend with hygiene problems you should encourage that friend to sleepover at your house instead and take them through the hygiene routine that you have taught your own children.
3 Bragging Rights
Which person is more annoying? The one who can’t stop telling you how pretty she is and how much everyone loves her or the one who is skinny but says everything makes her look fat and nobody likes her -- all while saying this she is totally expecting you to disagree. They are both annoying! PsychologyToday says this is Type #1 Bragging. Someone who is always trying to draw attention to themselves tends to forget about the feelings of others. While they are trying to build up their own self-esteem it is common to tear down those around them. Spending a lot of time with a buddy who brags can be toxic. It’s hard to ignore. Eventually one of three things will happen;
- They will start feeling down about themselves and try to play 'Keeping up with the Joneses'
- They will become a Type #1 Bragger
- They will tell their buddy how annoying they are and peace out of that friendship
Keep your fingers crossed for #3!
2 The Moocher
The neighborhood kids who never leave. If you live in a neighborhood you know who I'm talking about. They come out in the morning bright and early. When you walk outside, still in your PJ’s to let the dog out, the moochers come running. They stay all day. If you leave your house they are there waiting for you to get home. Where are the parents? Do they wonder where their kids are all day? Be careful if you start letting the moocher be your child’s sleepover buddy, they might just move in! Mooching kids will likely turn into mooching adults who conveniently forget their wallet and ask for rides. Jeanne Fleming, a financial ethics columnist for Money Magazine and has a Ph.D in sociology says “No matter how charming they may be, a friend who mooches isn’t really a friend.”
1 One and DONE
Of all the signs that your child’s sleepover buddy is shady AF this is number 1. When you pick them up from a sleepover, and ask them how it was, and their response is “I don’t want to stay there anymore.” If your child says they do not want to stay there anymore then it is so important you listen to them. Don't push your child into a friendship that they don't want. They obviously felt uncomfortable or upset at some point during the sleepover. If there was an issue with that friend in particular then try having them stay with a different friend next time. If your child has trouble staying away from home then you can always offer to host a sleepover at your house! Check out this article to help you prepare The Sleepover Survival Guide.