A #HAPO: Help A Parent Out request on our Facebook page has started a white-hot debate, and wow is it ever colorful! The topic? Coed sleepovers. Our post has garnered more than 900 comments so far, including opinions for and against, and it has ignited some thoughtful discussions.
According to our unscientific poll, mixed gender sleepovers for teens are a big NO for roughly 2/3 of people weighing in, saying that a sleepover is an invitation for activity that kids might not be ready for. Meaning what? Well, you can probably guess. The possibility for S-E-X.
Of course, as one commenter mentions, “Anything that could happen at a teenage sleepover could just as easily happen in the daytime. Unless you’re going to ban teenagers from mixing altogether, you’re not stopping anything.”
No. Way. A coed sleepover is a terrible idea!
Here’s a sample of some of the more colorful “no” comments on our post.
One parent shares: “My kid attended a coed slumber party one time. NEVER AGAIN. Let’s just say it ended in a baby shower a couple of months later.” (We’re not sure if this pregnancy can be traced to that specific night and event; however, we understand the general sentiment.)
Another contributor finally understands her own mother’s decision not to let her attend a sleepover party. “When I was in high school, my boyfriend (since 8th grade) had a sleepover for his 18th birthday. I was the only one whose parents said no to spending the night. I was so mad!! Now I totally get it!! And it was definitely the right choice!”
“What? Noooooooo coed sleepovers. Their brains are not fully developed and their executive functioning skills are low,” a parent declares.
Another one adds: “I absolutely do not have to trust a teenager! Have you met any of them?”
Some naysayers also question the parents planning to host these events, asking “What parent thought this was a good idea?” Another says, “Actually, I believe it is unfair of a parent to do this. It places other parents in a terribly difficult position.”
Yes. A coed sleepover is a great idea!
Other parents advocate for mixed sleepovers. Here’s why.
Some of them participated in similar events as a teen themselves and were none the worse for the wear. “I went to several as a kid. And I went to Catholic school, imagine that. We all were friends, and it was fun and harmless.”
Another commenter adds, “My mom allowed me to have one, and we all literally just stayed up all night playing games, watching movies and hanging out. Mom was up.”
Sleepover Tips and Rules
More parents chime in to say that those types of ground rules are what make sleepovers successful. Says one, “I have hosted mixed overnight gatherings. Main rule: doors stay open, unless it’s a bathroom break.”
Still more parents share their sleepover rules, too — but for every sleepover host that has established boundaries, there’s a comment questioning how carefully those rules would be followed.
A parent explains how she separated kids by gender, “My now 31-year-old would have his four best friends — two male and two female — for sleepovers when he was a teenager. The girls had to sleep in my daughter’s room though, when it was time for lights out.”
One representative remark about setting a rule to separate kids by gender is: “Good luck keeping them apart. I know that a lot of the trouble starts once parents go to sleep.”
Others remind the group that worrying about sleepovers based entirely on gender ignores the fact that many teens identify as gay or pansexual (attracted emotionally, romantically, and/or physically to all genders).
“Just because it’s all girls or all boys doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chance of sexual activity,” another parent adds.
One mom notes that a coed event can, in fact, be a safe place for many teens. “I had sleepovers where my gay male friends came, but since they weren’t out to adults, I was really glad they were still able to participate.”
Many in the yes camp also remind parents that a sleepover can be a way to boost trust and that it presents an ideal opportunity for an open dialogue with your child to talk about boundaries and safety — including how they relate to sexual activity.
Is a coed sleepover a good idea for your teen?
The answer to that question depends a lot on your kid, where they’ll be, who they’ll be with, and your family’s circumstances.
Parents who aren’t comfortable with their teens sleeping over have settled on a compromise that still allows their kids to mix and mingle even though they won’t be staying overnight. One parent suggests an arrangement like, “You can stay until 10:00 p.m., but then I’m coming to pick you up because we have xyz early tomorrow morning.”
Another interesting take: “Sometimes your kids ask because they want you to say ‘no’ to get them out of what they perceive to be a potentially uncomfortable situation. That was always the agreement with my teen — that he could blame me if I said no to something that all his friends were doing but that he secretly didn’t want to.”
And finally, one helpful parent offered the advice we should always live by as we make decisions for our family: “Everyone has to do what they think is best for their kids.”
It’s fascinating to get other parents’ takes on the thorny issues. Head on over to our Facebook page and join in on our latest conversation. While you’re weighing in, take a minute to read the comments. You might read something that gives you a new perspective — you’ll almost certainly read something that makes you laugh and nod your head.