Q: My daughter was invited to a sleepover where I don’t know the parents well. I’m a little uncomfortable with this, given all you read in the news. Am I just a mom who is over-reacting?
A: In the sleepover scene of the movie Grease, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) explains to her classmates, the “Pink Ladies,” that she once tried champagne on Christmas Day. Unimpressed, the girls pressure her to drink, smoke and pierce her ears. In this scene, there doesn’t seem to be any parental supervision of the sleepover – either from a mom or dad! The movie illustrates the importance of parental monitoring and networking.
Parental monitoring. In order to make decisions about sleepovers, parents need information. Although it may be embarrassing to your daughter, you need to gather information about plans for the sleepover. Make sure a parent is planning to supervise the sleepover, rather than turning over the responsibility to an older sibling. Since coed sleepovers have become more popular in recent years, check to see if this is a “girls-only” event. How will movies be monitored? Discuss the night’s agenda with the supervising parent to see if it fits your family’s values.
Network with other parents. Get to know the parents of your daughter’s friends. Plan a potluck with the girls and their parents or arrange to attend a school event together. Do they attend your church? Ask them over for brunch after Mass so the families can mingle. Exchange emails and cell phone numbers so that each parent feels comfortable double-checking on events and plans. Chances are that, as you get to know the parents, you will feel more comfortable about invitations to their home.
Whether at a sleepover, a school event or other activities, make sure your daughter knows she can call you if she feels uncomfortable. Encourage her to follow her instincts – if she senses that something just isn’t right, then call and get a ride home. Pray for discernment whenever making decisions about your children: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build. Unless the Lord guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch.” (Psalm 127:1)
Dr. Cathleen McGreal is a psychology professor and certified spiritual director.