Are Sleepovers Good Or Bad?

Photo: iStockphoto

This might seem like a silly question (so much fun, no?) but it’s actually a pretty contentious issue. When we asked our readers, we were surprised how divisive the response was. Read on for two parents takes on slumber parties.

Yes to sleepovers

When my oldest child reached an age that she was asking to have a friend sleepover, I was initially reluctant. It felt like a lot of work, especially juggling four kids of my own, and I wondered how my parents managed to put up with so many slumber parties when my sister and I were growing up. But despite my misgivings, I said yes, because I wanted my kids to have experiences similar to the memories I cherished.

I’ve since figured out my parents’ secret: They didn’t see themselves as hosts, but instead as a safe place for our friends to spend time. My mom didn’t plan elaborate craft projects or whip herself into a frenzy creating themed meals. There was just an extra plate of whatever we were having for dinner, and instructions on how to find the cereal cupboard the next morning.

With this mellow approach in mind, we’ve become sleepover experts, and we welcome the fun. Inviting your kids’ friends to sleep over is a way to include them in the everyday hum of your family life. It’s those unstructured and slow moments that provide an opportunity to get to know them better. Many of our kids’ friends come from smaller families, and joining a movie night with a pile of siblings is a lot of fun. Our kids are happy to grab a sleeping bag and head to a friend’s house for the night, too. It’s a chance to practise some independence.

It’s true that a sleepover can end with a cranky, overtired kid and a messy family room. But it can also mean a late-night heart-to-hearts and shared moments that help your child feel more connected to a friend. It can also give you a front row seat to how your child navigates friendships.

Sleepovers don’t have be a cumbersome chore and can actually be a great gift—an ordinary night with an extra plate and a bigger bowl of popcorn. —Louise Gleeson

No to sleepovers

A friend recently hosted her first sleepover and I warned her it would be one of the worst nights of her life. I told her about the shrieking, the injuries, the mess, the complaining, the farting, the fights, the poorly executed karaoke. The next day she reported back: The four girls had quietly read their books for half an hour and it was lights out by 10:30.

This has not been my experience of sleepovers.

Three years ago, our then-eight-year-old went happily off to his first major sleepover. We picked him up early the next morning, as we’d planned to go cross-country skiing that day, and the kid who slunk into the car was one I barely recognized. There had been 10 other boys. There had been, apparently, a scream-filled wrestling match at 3 a.m. They’d fallen asleep at 6 a.m. We’d arrived to get him at 8 a.m.

The day was a disaster, filled with crabby hot tears and desperate whining at every snowy turn. The gloomy, angry mood continued the next day, and the next. The kid was a mess for a week, which pretty much spelled the end of his sleepover career. The next year, the same friend’s party happened, with a twist—we picked him up at 10 p.m. that night and saved ourselves a week-long meltdown.

Now that he’s 11, he gets that his body needs a ton of sleep for his brain to function happily, which makes him okay with our stance. (Fortunately, his friends’ parents appear to feel similarly to us, so we don’t have to turn a ton of invitations down.) Plus he’s mildly mortified by having parents, as a rule, so asking other kids to stay over at our place isn’t appealing either.

But the annual infamous birthday sleepover is coming up. He quite politely asked if he can go this year. We said maybe. —Catherine Day

Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue. 

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