Seriously!? Not ANOTHER Sleepover! What You Need To Know As A Parent...
Sleepovers … love them or loathe them?
"Can my friend spend the night?" Do you dread that question? Do you love hearing it? The topic of sleepovers seems to be one of those issues in parenthood where most have an opinion. You either love them or hate them. I find myself firmly in the "hate them" category. I hate having them at my house and I hate sending my teen to someone else's house. I can't decide if I hate them for legitimate reasons or if it's because I truly LOVE sleep, which is harder to do with strange people in my house, or my important people missing from my house.
We can all agree sleep is critical for our teens. All the research about sleep suggests our teens need regular, consistent, quality sleep. In fact, teens needs 9-10 hours of sleep a night!! Show me a sleep over where that happens and I will reconsider my position! Here are three pitfalls to watch for and ideas for compensating when you can no longer avoid the "Can my bestie sleep over?" question.
The term sleepover is a straight up lie!
Even with the best of intentions, very little quality sleep actually happens. I think we can all agree teens are irritable, grumpy, and sleep-deprived most of the time, but definitely after a sleepover. Most teens will love the idea of a sleepover the day before, but can admit to being easily annoyed and irritated by everyone the day after a sleepover. They might even be an emotional disaster the day after.
If the sleepover has to happen, be sure your teen has a comfortable place to sleep, the environment will be as conducive to sleep as possible, and that they can sleep in the following morning or will be able to have a relaxing day after the fact. Your teen is responsible for his or her own sleep, but you must show them how important good, quality sleep is on their development and ability to handle life's stresses. Continue to talk to them about sleep and make connections for them about their mood and health when they are not getting the sleep they desperately need.
Nothing good ever happens after midnight!
Teens have a tendency to do something relatively dumb in the middle of the night that they probably wouldn't have considered with the same enthusiasm in broad daylight. A still developing frontal cortex (the decision making part of our brains) combined with sleep deprivation, and most likely a whole lot of junk food, is a recipe for impulsive decisions. Remember Ouija boards? Truth or Dare? 7 Minutes in Heaven? Think back to your own sleepovers. Any embarrassing stories of things done and tried after those parents went to bed? Yep. Enough said on this one. Encourage teens to be in for the night, watching a movie or doing something structured after midnight.
Social media + Sleepover = Whole New Ball Game.
If we could set one major sleepover rule, it's that there should be limited access to social media. If kids are coming together to hang out, they should actually be interacting with one another. Period. They are having the sleepover to spend time together. Is there any reason they should be tweeting, texting, posting pictures of themselves on Instagram, or sending Snapchats? Nope! First of all, they can interact on social media without being in the same place, so why would they need to keep us awake for that?? Secondly, some type of meanness—either intentional or unintentional—will happen if social media is the focus of the sleepover.
Teens can post all about the sleepover while it is going on can make others who are not there feel excluded. Or the encouragement from each other may push them to post and say things they wouldn't if they were alone. Comments on others post may get bolder, pictures may get more provocative, and comments can easily become more mean. Teens are braver in a group. This may backfire when braver can mean pushing the limits of social media common sense or rules to follow. Ideally, the teens agree to put their phones down for the night. It seems that is getting harder and harder for teens to do. But why not keep talking to your teen specifically about taking a break from social media for those few hours?
Show your teen that in person, face to face, relationships and friendships are so much more rewarding. They won't learn that lesson if they are not encouraged to give it a try. So, consider asking the teens at your sleepover to put their phones away for the night and enjoy each other's time. Shouldn't they know the bonding experience of playing a game of truth or dare without the fear of their truth being shared immediately to 236 followers or their dare being videotaped and shared on YouTube?
Teens love to be with friends. Finding real, face to face social time can be challenging. A sleepover can be a perfect solution. As parents, let's all commit to keeping the sleep in sleepover. Our teens need the sleep for their emotional and social development. They need the sleep to help them make good decisions. And hey, I need my sleep too!