In some ways, sleepovers almost feel like a rite of passage in childhood. Who doesn’t have memories of staying up late with your friends, watching movies and eating snacks, only to pass out in your Disney Princess sleeping bag on the floor of your BFF’s finished basement? Well, one mom is going viral on TikTok and Instagram for sharing her “unpopular” opinion about kids and sleepovers—and she brings up some seriously valid points.
Tara Huck shared a quick TikTok video about her “unpopular parenting opinions” last month, and even though the video was just seconds long, it’s sparked a weeks-long debate about sleepovers.
“I don’t allow sleepovers,” she captions in the video. She also mentions that as long as schoolwork and chores are done, she doesn’t limit screen time (neither do I, FWIW, and I wrote about that here), and if her kids don’t eat what she cooks for dinner, they don’t eat.
But it was the “no sleepovers” thing that got other moms talking in the comments section.
Buzzfeed interviewed Huck about her video, where she explained that her two children (elementary school-age) don’t sleep at anyone else’s house and no one sleeps at hers, to keep it fair.
“We do later hangouts, the kids can go to trusted families’ houses for gatherings, and then we pick them up when it’s time for bed,” she said.
She eventually uploaded another TikTok further clarifying her stance on no sleepovers. “You cannot be positive that something won’t happen to your children at someone else’s house,” she says.
And she’s right. As parents, we can’t control everything—and accepting that loss of control at times, especially for those of us who suffer from anxiety (hello, it’s me), can be so difficult. But we can control who we allow in our children’s lives and where they spend time—at least when they’re little.
“There are weapon safety, sexual assault, drugs, alcohol, bullying, etc.,” Huck says. “Kids are their most vulnerable when they are asleep. I’d rather not risk their safety just to sleep at someone else’s house. I’m just trying to eliminate one very small factor that could potentially harm them.”
Darkness to Light, an organization that works to end child sexual abuse, has a helpful list of questions parents can reference in regard to sleepovers and deciding if a child is ready for one. Preparation and vigilance, they say, are key in differentiating between a risky situation to a normal one.
The ever-present conundrum of parenthood is finding the balance between safety and fun, and the right amount of control over any given situation. Huck’s TikTok has brought forth a very important topic, and hopefully paves the way for all of us to have this conversation in our own homes.
Eight Questions To Ask Before Allowing Sleepovers
1. What would make my child, tween, or teen “ready”?
Think about your child, their maturity level, and how well they have done spending time away from you. You could also consider enhancing their readiness with some practical necessities like special food needs, a cell phone, certain comfort items. Ask your child what they might be.
2. How well do I know this family?
Consider interactions you have had with the family. Have you seen how these parents respond to their children in different situations? Do you know what their values are or what they are okay exposing their children to and does it align with your family? If you have had little to no interaction, how can you really know they are safe?
3. What kind of adult supervision will there be and who else will be present?
Ask who will be supervising and who else will be in the home for any part of your child’s stay. Keep in mind that about 1/3 of youth are sexually abused by another child, so consider what other kids will be present in the home as well.
4. What is their household like?
Is this a place where my child will be comfortable? Does the layout lend itself to safety and supervision? Do they have a pool or own guns? What will the sleeping arrangements be like and do they have an open-door policy during sleepovers?
5. Can I talk with this parent(s) about my concerns and needs?
If you can’t comfortably voice your concerns, how can you expect your child to feel safe in this home? It doesn’t hurt to ask if the parents have had any child safeguarding training, like CPR and child sexual abuse prevention training.
6. What are my hard and fast rules?
Obviously, no isolated one-on-one situations should be allowed under any circumstances. Beyond that rule, what about movies? Drinking? Does your child need to check in for permission if the original plans change? Consider which of your household rules must be stretched to include another household.
7. What safety and comfort contingencies can I put in place?
Discuss with your child the different scenarios they may encounter to help prepare them. Talk through possible scenarios and the appropriate responses. What if you woke up in the middle of the night and got scared? What if Danny (older brother) asked you to hang out in his room? This is also a good time to consider sending a cell phone with your child – making it easier to call if they are ready to come home. Consider establishing a safe word established so they can text you discretely to come pick them up, no questions asked.
8. What check-in points can we put into the mix?
It might be a good idea to have them text a time or two during the evening or make a phone call before bed checking in. Having considered all of these questions, what is your gut telling you?