Navigating tricky sleepover situations

    In this third of eight excerpts from parenting guide “Letting Go with Love and Confidence”: Sleepovers are becoming more routine, but parents should be thoughtful about preparing adolescents for the possible downsides.

    Part three of eight.

    Excerpted from the new book Letting Go with Love and Confidence.

    Sleepover mania has taken hold in many communities, even with children in kindergarten. But no matter how routine sleepovers have become, you should be thoughtful about preparing your child for the possible downsides.

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    Safety is a key concern at all ages. Among the points to consider: Do you know the family and have you been in their home? Will parents be home the entire time? Who else will be in the house, including older siblings, relatives, members of the opposite sex?

    Call the host parent. Frame the conversation in a friendly way that acknowledges that while you’re happy that your child has been invited, you want to run a few things by the parent. “Eliza said Kaley invited her to sleep over. I always check in with parents to make sure the plans are okay.” By stressing “I always check in,” you’re not suggesting that you question the person’s parenting skills.

    A lot of tricky social stuff can happen at sleepovers. Peer dynamics can quickly shift and boundaries of what’s acceptable can fade as the night wears on. You need to equip your adolescent with three survival skills that will help her make good choices in a peer-charged atmosphere.

    No. 1: Saying No And Keeping Friends In The Process

    Kids want to be liked and be with their friends in the thick of things. While we hope young people can defy peer pressure, they won’t do so unless they also are able to maintain their friendships. Adolescents need to be able to confidently say, “No, I don’t want to go to the party, but call me tomorrow to do something.”

    Teach your child three steps:

    Recognize when someone is giving you a line or you’re feeling pressure.
    State your position clearly and politely, but with no room for change.
    Come up with something else to do, either now or in the future.

    No 2: Shifting the Blame

    Adolescents are more likely to get through a sticky situation if they can “shift the blame” for making a good decision to Mom or Dad. “My mom checks the car like you wouldn’t believe. Don’t even think about smoking.”

    Having in place a nightly “check-in rule” at your house will help your adolescent be able to shift the blame to you. Check-in works like this: Your teen must always come and say good night to you when he comes in, even if he has to wake you. The check-in rule allows you to know your child is home safe, but just as important, it allows your teen to save face. “My dad smells my breath. If he catches me drinking, I won’t be going to the concert.”

    No. 3: Using a Code Word

    Your adolescent should have a code word to signal you if she gets in a bind. Take this scenario: Your teen goes to a friend’s house for a sleepover, and soon the place is swarming with kids and beer. Fortunately, you and your teen have agreed to a code word that she can use to call you in an uncomfortable situation or emergency, no questions asked. She calls and says, “I forgot to take out the dog,” but you know she really means “Come and get me, now!” Or in a similarly prearranged agreement, “I forgot to take out the dog” is your signal to start yelling into the phone that your daughter better get home. The code word allows your teen to act like you’re the one spoiling the fun.


    Discussion Question: Boy-girl sleepovers have become popular in some communities after special events such as prom and graduation. What is your experience with such gatherings?


    —Excerpted with permission and edited from Letting Go with Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century (Avery, 2011).

    letting-go-cover_145In September and October, NewsWorks is presenting a series of eight excerpts from the new book, Letting Go with Love and Confidence. Here is a schedule for the rest of the series.

     When is my child ready:

    Manage money? Monday, Sept. 19
    Go to the mall? Thursday, Sept. 22
    Stay out late or stretch a curfew? Monday, Sept. 26

    How do I talk about:

    Success? Thursday, Sept. 29
    Sex? Monday, Oct. 3

    During the month, the authors will also conduct several Web chats on Check back for more information on dates and times.


    Ginsburg_77x77Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., M.S.Ed., is a pediatrician and researcher specializing in adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Regularly voted a “Top Doc” by Philadelphia magazine, he also serves homeless and marginalized youth as the Director of Health Services at Covenant House Pennsylvania. He talks around the country on the importance of cultivating resilience in children so that they can thrive in a complex world. He is an advisor to the U.S. military, providing strategies to help families cope with a loved one’s deployment. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two teenage daughters.

    Fitzgerald_77x77Susan FitzGerald is an award-winning journalist with a specialty in children’s health issues. A former staff writer and editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, she now works as an independent writer and editor and teaches health writing in the graduate Writing Studies Program at St. Joseph’s University. She and her husband have three sons.

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