Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What do YOU do Wednesday

What do you do when your kids start wanting to spend the night with friends?

That sounds like such a simple question.

Maybe I'm WAY more freaked out about this than I need to be...but maybe not.

Here's the sitch in a nutshell.

Looking back over my school years, I can say with full confidence that I never learned anything horrible, or did anything awful while I was AT school.

So those of you with kids in public school, I can confidently say, that in retrospect, I see how during the school day, the teachers did a great job of keeping us busy (all those worksheets) and productive. I don't have one single memory of participating in awful things or even getting to talk about icky things while I was AT school. For the most part, for ME, school was a pretty safe place where nothing noticeably different happened that wasn't allowed at my own house.


I remember tons of talks about sex and other nasty things I would LOVE to protect my children from for as long as possible happening while walking home from school, while playing with neighbors on my street, and hanging out after school unsupervised.

I could repeat for you, word for word, how MANY of those talks about sex went, what I learned, etc. and that was a long, long, time ago. Those images and thoughts are STILL tattooed to my brain.

The WORST things I ever saw, watched, and did happened while spending the night with other kids.

I saw in pornographic magazines and TV shows.

We spent hours talking about sick, perverted things.

We even DID some sick, perverted things.

ALL of those experiences, unfortunately are still with my brain.

I hate that I knew at such an early age about things I hope my kids are protected from for a very long time.

And here's the deal...

I didn't grow up unloved or unsupervised. My mom cared about who I was with. So, a lot of the things that happened to me, I'm sure would shock her.

I'm also sure that my past is what makes me such a freak about the thought that my child could be down the street, in a neighbor's house doing things that could hurt them GREATLY and I'm sitting here, naively letting it go on.

Anson has spent the night with family and one family from our church, but has just now been asking to do so more.

My answer so far has been..."Daddy and I still have no idea what we think about this!"

How do you handle your kids spending the night with friends, or playing with neighbors on your street? How do you know if it's safe for them to play inside someone's house?

The fact that I know what I did and saw while away from home is something I can't change, so my experiences will make it very hard for someone to convince me that I'm over reacting.

Maybe you had wonderful sleepovers and play dates away from home, but I didn't. And, there were far too many sick situations I found myself in to just shrug them off as "strange and uncommon."

I don't want to be crazy, but I do want to be wise. Aaron and I certainly want to take our responsibility seriously.

So, for all of you with older kids, who have already gone through this, please tell us what you do.

For those of you who don't have kids, then maybe just sharing some ways you think you could have been protected will be SO HELPFUL.

Let's hear it!


Charlie, Kirby, and Asher said...

Ah! Such a great topic. Asher and McKlayne have years before this comes into play, but I have to say all of my innocence-deteriorating experiences from these situations (some were while in school though, sorry). I want to be ready. I've wondered how you either say "no" to certain slumber parties or actually screen them and protect your children.


Whitney Swanson said...

i have often thought about this for the future when i (hopefully) have a quiver-full family.

O and just to add in, I disagree that you dont have time to do awful things or hear awful things during the school-day. I was exposed to LOADS of unnecessary information at the cafeteria table during lunch... my public school was NOT a conducive environment AT ALL.

i was not raised biblically... but even so, there are things I wish my parents had done to protect me. Like a legitimate sex talk. because the only thing I ever got got was diagrams and explanations from a book that my mom read to my sister and i before bed. HOW EMBARASSING! no one listens to their mother during one of those! they were like the most awful 30 minute sessions of my life. I didnt learn a thing because I was so focused on how awkward I felt and how much I didnt want to be there. I wish they had sat me down and explained to me how a guy's mind works and what to do to avoid that unwanted attention. and just had a sex talk of some sort, because I remember traumatizing events and conversations that I feel like I could have been sheltered from.

Spending the night places never really entailed anything bad until high school for me. My first 2 years of high school were just ongoing lies to my parents. I never did any of the things they thought I was doing, and they would have been struck with disbelief if they knew what I was really doing.

But apparently exposure to sex related things and pornography happens at an even younger age now. It's scary. I sometimes tell myself that my kids will never sleep over at friends' houses, just because of stories I have heard and things I experienced. But is that sheltering them too much? College would potentially be a REAL shocker then...

This is tough. I have no idea because I am not a mother. But I just know what I too was exposed to. And even if you try to prevent it, kids will still figure out ways to get around rules and do what they want. at least that was the case for me before I became a believer.

Reba said...

I know I was exposed to stuff too at others' houses. One thing that had helped a lot was that my parents had always been very open with me about sex so honestly I didn't learn a lot from what I saw or heard. Most of that was junior high or older. We are still trying to figure out the spend the night thing too. Our son has spent the night with two boys. I feel comfortable with both families. I do know that he sometimes has seen a cartoon or tv show that I don't allow at home, though I cannot say they are "bad"...just not allowed here. The good thing about our oldest son is he is very much a rule follower so I also know he has told friends, "Sorry, I cannot watch that". We are struggling a little right now. There is a boy he wants to spend the night with and I am not comfortable with his mother (more her attitude than worried about a sin-filled environment). I could tolerate the boy spending the night here but I really don't want him to go there. So I will be coming back to check out answers. I do know that my house was always the house to go to as a high school student. Mom always had extra food, friends felt comfortable with her. I am sure that helped a lot...most of the time my friends wanted to be at my house rather than me at theirs. (The other very tricky part is that I am a teacher at the school my kids attend and I know the "behind the scenes" information about a lot of kids/families just based on my school experiences...)

Claire Bellington said...

This is hard. I agree with Whitney...I was exposed to a plethora of awful things in high school and it started in junior high. However, I do think that as far as spending the night with other kids goes....
I dont know. I think talking to the parents would be a good idea, and just making sure the children are well supervised. Also I would just talk to Anson and make sure he understands the dangers of sinful conversations, shows, etc and what you expect of him.
My parents never did this for me but I think if they did I would have listened.
I don't know! There will be a point in their lives where you cannot shelter them, (college, school, etc)
However, I do think that yes..some kids do go behind their parents backs and do harmful things (I did), but I also was not trained in a biblical way growing up.
I don't think all children are like that. But its hard for children because they are easily influenced by their peers.
I'm not a mother yet, but I guess I would just use your best judgement and keep praying about the children you allow your kids to spend the night with.

Carrie said...

Oh I have thought of this and hate it as much as you. I have girls too.... I don't want them spending the night with friends who have older brothers. I trust no one with my kids.

Donna said...

This is good and I'm looking forward to the responses.
One suggestion we learned from Jenn Bacak is great. When it comes to movies at another person's house: if Hannah (our 7 year old) has not seen the movie, she must call us and ask us first before she watches it.

This is a hard area for us because we are the only believers amongst our family locally. One of Hannah's cousin's wants her to spend the night. Unfortunately, because of the situation, Hannah is not allowed to stay at her house. But, we do invite her cousin to stay at our place.

We are still learning much. Hannah is just now starting to ask about staying the night elsewhere. Looking forward to what other parents do.

Hendrick Family said...

Here's a great excerpt I found written by Michael Pearl. I DO NOT agree with some of the stuff the Pearl's teach AT ALL, but I do love what he has to say about raising sons who love the Lord, the Word and teaching them how to be leaders in their homes, churches and communities.

"Dear lady, if your husband’s office was in the same building as a strip joint, just one curtained glass door separating him from the view, would you be comfortable trusting him to never pull back the curtain and look in on the smut? Would you trust your young untested sons—even when you are gone to the store, and they are there alone? That is exactly what the web is—a ready window to the most vile pornography that the devil and his demons can produce. It is pure Sodom and Gomorrah. And it is right there in your home, all the time, waiting day and night to reach though the screen and grab the lusts of a boy or man. I avoid it like Hell.

I cannot say this too forcefully. You are gullible beyond belief if you have in your home a computer with access to the web and it is not on a password, completely inaccessible to your sons. Every single boy from eight to sixteen years old—without exception—will get on the web and look at porn if he can find the opportunity. He will get up in the middle of the night. He will play sick and sneak in when you are gone to the store for medicine. He will arrive home early, stay up late, rise before you do, or go to a friend’s house and get on their computer when they are not home.

If you are the best parent and child trainer, with the best of spiritual instruction, and the finest education, and your sons view pornography on the web, you have wasted your time. You lose. They lose. God loses. The devil wins.

Christian men develop the fortitude and discipline to obey God and walk in holiness against all temptation, but few boys before the age of eighteen have that kind of discipline."

I included that quote, because I completely forgot to mention the computer. Heck, now kids have hand held computers! A child could bring junk over to YOUR house on one of those things and you not even know about it!

So, yes...

I agree with much of what has been said.

I do think we need to be diligently training our kids BEFORE they are exposed to any of these situations where they could fall into sin with such long-lasting consequences. That means teaching them now how to handle peer pressure. It means teaching them now how to make wise decisions. this article suggests...we have to keep in mind that kids are still kids! Simply because of their age, they are immature spiritually and mentally. One day, YES they will be exposed to so much (high school, college) which means we can't protect them forever. HOWEVER, our goal is to make sure we have as much training and God's Word hidden in their heart as possible BEFORE they are exposed to so much garbage and unsheltered.

We can't give them more than they can handle. I didn't mention the computer because that was NOT an issue when I was growing up. I'm so OLD!

But, when we were in youth ministry, Aaron made it clear to families that they were INSANE...he was kind of harsh...if they had a computer that was not password protected. Which means, sending kids over to houses with computers they can access is STUPID.

That's another question I'll ask once I get my lie detector test...

"Is your computer password protected?"

Hopefully we'll get more info from women with older kids!

Such a freaky thing to talk about!


Bev Brandon said...

My 4 kids never spent the night at anyone's home who were not Christians (as best as I remember)---and just ask them what happened in those homes!!! Bottom line is that Christian parents also have all kinds of different values and perspectives. I'd say invite them to spend the night at your house as much as possible. No way you can figure every scenario out, so you ask your Author and move only when you have peace. And I do know Christian schools aren't safe today either. Only one place you find rest in childrearing---from the One Who is wooing your children to HIMSELF, from their Author and their Finisher of their faith. A life of Resolve and Repentance brings rest. "Watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live." (Deut. 4:9) But, just like Israel, we all forget and our kids will let Truth slip from their hearts. How foolish that all of us think at times that there is a greater good to be found in the moment than in our relationship with God. Not about knowledge & insight---all about Love (2Cor 8:1). Not just about correcting everything; all about Repentance. We're all curved in on ourselves and His Kindness leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). And I so love your heart Heather that is offering your little ones a taste of God, that's hope (Deut 6:6)!
Watch closely.
Trust wildly.

Hendrick Family said...

I love that, Mrs. B! Thank you tons and tons!


the lewisi female said...

I feel silly even posting after Bev's wonderful words but I will just throw you some support b/c I think it's amazing that you are even thinking about this and it's really started me thinking.... just about every single perverted thing I heard or saw growing up was at some one else's (always a Christian family carefully screened by my rents) home late at night with other girls. I never have thought about what should be done about this before, I'm so glad you are hashing it out now.... thanks

LD said...

What a great question. I've honestly never thought about what I would do in that situation. For me, spending the night at a friends' houses was one of my favorite things. I started spending the night at my best friend's house when I was 5! That seems so crazy now, but we practically lived at each other's houses growing up. Our families were really close, and my mom knew that nothing would happen, especially since her parents were even more strict than my parents were (which was not easy to do, let me tell you).

Looking back, I think the only bad experiences I ever had were from spending the night with kids whose parents were unbelievers. I would certainly not let my children stay with parents that I did not absolutely trust and knew that they shared the same values in raising kids.

All of the other friends through elementary, middle school, and even high school were great though. Most of the time they were kids from our church and their parents held the same standards that mine did, which meant we didn't watch any questionable movies or tv shows, and of course we didn't have access to a computer when I was little because almost no one had one.

I do remember that I always called my parents to ask about movies if I wasn't sure about it. They made sure I knew exactly what I was and wasn't allowed to do and if I had questions I always called.

I think a lot of it just comes down to the situation. Do you trust the parents AND the child? Does your child have the maturity to know to call you if something happens or to say no if the other kid want to watch or do something inappropriate?

Of course the other alternative is to be the "cool" house that everyone wants to go to. You could totally be that mom.

Jennifer Bacak said...

Oh no, I saw every bad movie I ever saw at a "church friend's" house. That's why we have the movie rule. Emma has only spent the night at two places, her first being a few weeks ago at the Short's for Hannah's totally Jesus-focused slumber party! She called to see if she could watch this Christian animated movie about being a princess of the King! Loved it! It was a priceless phone call! And the Feldmans, because I admire Shannan and look to her for wisdom as a Mom. So my thought right now is that there are a precious few families who I know WELL ENOUGH to know we are likeminded and that they are wise in their choices as a family, not just proclaimed believers or church-goers.
I would much rather err on the side of caution and have kids spend the night here!!!

Hi. My name is Alanna. said...

I always feel strange writing my thoughts after reading other peoples' on these topics, but here goes. I'm sorry this is SO LONG!!!

Note: My comments are geared primarily for kids under age 11 b/c that's what I have and what most people reading this have. I think there's a different set of rules for both junior high and high schoolers. I've had one of those too, so I can share those thoughts as well if you're interested.

My kids love spending the night with friends, and I love them doing so and having their friends over. It was one of my favorite parts of growing up and is one of theirs too. I still love it!

My thoughts/guidelines are:
1) I'd love to be the Pearls at times, but I'd rather reach real people living real life (Christians and Non-Christians alike). If I'm not in the real world meeting those people and my kids meeting them, then we've missed out (and so have those would've-been-friends). Honestly, real people usually have sleepovers. So, we have sleepovers. Additionally, I believe in preparing my kids for real life. In my experience, the unexpected happens A LOT and I don't want my kids ever HAVING to sleep over at someone's house for some unexpected reason and feeling awkward and scared b/c it happened all of a sudden and I couldn't be there to prepare them.

2) Pick an age that you feel is emotionally and physically mature enough to sleep over at someone else's house. Mine is usually 6-7 years old/1st grade (depending on the child). When they are old enough to be at school all day long without crying, getting lonely, and understand what should and should not happen at a sleepover (for their age), they are old enough to go. Most parents we're friends with at those ages are pretty supervisory and involved, and I limit who they're allowed to go with. I still have yet to decide about Zeke - he's emotionally not anywhere near where the other kids were at his age, so he may be 8 or 9 before I let him go to a sleepover, but we may have a few here before then. We'll see. Be wisely flexible.

3) Get to know the people and go with your gut. Your kids aren't teenagers or near that yet, so all the stuff that you talked about learning at sleepovers probably happened later in life (if not, keep reading below). Start with people you trust deeply and who already know and love your kids. (aka not your child's "new best friend" he met at the park yesterday) People you know would pray with your kids, would treat your kids like you do, would be able to help your kids if anything were to happen while they were there (aka electrical outage, natural disaster, family emergency, etc.). Also, these are people you can find if anything happens. You know their work numbers, cell numbers, family members, pets, and favorite foods.

4) Prepare your kids for a sleepover. My suggestions on how to do that: HAVE A SLEEPOVER AT YOUR HOUSE FIRST. That kind of sets the tone. Y'all can plan it out ahead of time, they are given ideas on what happens and what to expect, and you can lay the ground rules of what should and should NOT go on during a sleepover. First impressions tend to stick with kids, especially boys. They often base their future decisions on what happened before b/c what happened the first time around is what they think is normal and expect is always going to happen. Make it a good first time around.

5) Talk to the parents who are going to have them over. Make sure you know BOTH of the parents (and all other adults that will be sleeping there if there are any). When my kids first started sleeping over, I would ask what the plans were for while they were there. I also had the kids call me once or twice to check in.

6) Let the parents know that this is your child's first, second, fifth sleepover. Tell them what is expected and what is not, what your child may and may NOT eat, play, watch, etc. Do NOT let your child spend the night with parents who disregard what you say or who think you are crazy for telling them about your child. Parents who value your input usually value your child. Give them every piece of unimportant information they need to know b/c it will make you feel better, it will let them know you care, and IT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER. :)

7) For older kids or ones that you think are at the place where anything "not so moral" is likely or possible to happen... teach them to value purity. Here's the thing with human beings: we are still fallible, but we are also creatures of habit and we do what we love. If your mind and life is ingrained, deeply rooted, and founded IN a relationship with Christ where you value purity, then you won't want to spend signficant amounts of time on impurity. And you will be rather rare. So, prepare your kids (age appropriately) for what people do. They live in a real world and need real life answers about how to handle this stuff. They never know when a "good youth group friend" is gonna pull out a dirty magazine or put on a semi-riske movie or tell a very inappropriate joke. So, when it happens (whether at a sleepover or just in an everyday moment in the car or at the mall), what are your kids going to do? They need to value purity so they recognize it is wrong to do these things. Second, they need to have a place to take those emotions, thoughts, etc. - marriage - so value purity AND marriage. Third, tell them this IS what may happen during their life time (again age appropriately) and how to respond. Role play it out with them if your child is better with that. But don't not tell them. Kids need the resources to handle real life because real life WILL happen to them eventually, and there is a time and place to shelter them from it and then a time to start equipping them with the tools on how to live within the real world and still belong to God and shine for Him so others will see why they live that way. (I think Jen Bacak's post on being a good wife and the persecuted church applies so well here - just translate it into being a teenager.)

8) Make sure you have a good relationship with your kids so that if they get into a situation where people ARE doing things they shouldn't, they have the freedom to call you and won't feel weird about it nor get in trouble for doing so. Make them proud that they have you as parents! Trust them. You will go so far to build relationship when you trust them, not just the other way around. And don't forget to be involved - every parent can be the cool parent to their kid who is involved but not controlling. Relationship, relationship, relationship. Love them. Love what they love. Teach them to love what God loves. Love them. Relate to them - don't just expect them to relate to you - not even at 2. They're not experienced at this, and they're learning how to relate to others by how you relate to them and others. So, you be the one to relate to them, not the other way around.

9) Don't expect that someone is NOT okay to hang out with or have your child spend the night with simply because they are not Christians. If that were the case, my kids would have NEVER gone to anyone's house or had any sleepovers in Pennsylvania. They would have had no friends period because our church was a long way from our house and people at it were just too busy to do that stuff. So, you have to work within where you're at. I do think you should be cautious (these are your children!), but I think you can get a really good sense from people and whether they will love and protect your children when they are with them if you make it a point to be friends with your kids' friends' parents. My parents took a risk on doing that with some people when we were little, and now those people are not only Christians and church leaders, but my parents away from my parents. I love them dearly and cannot imagine my childhood without them. My kids made some fantastic friends in Pennsylvania, and we miss them a lot. People will never love who or what you love if you do not love them first.

10) Commit to being involved with the kids your kids are having sleepovers with and their parents. The parents may not be as interested in being friends with you as your kids are with their kids - and that's fine - but when you can, invest in the parents too. Mostly, be friends/good examples to those kids. Have them over for dinner. Go bowling as families. Play Wii together. Go to your children's sports events and school events and parks and such together with their parents. Build relationship. This makes all the difference in the world for your security of mind and theirs. Don't forget - THEY ARE WONDERING THE SAME THINGS ABOUT YOU THAT YOU ARE ABOUT THEM. "Will they touch my child in the middle of the night? Do they hide magazines under their mattress? What movies do they watch, etc?" Relationship answers those questions and more.

11) Last but not least - this is something you should do anyhow. Teach your kids about their private parts and people not touching or looking at them, etc. Teach them about strangers, about the lies "nice people" make up, etc. Then teach them what to do. I didn't let my kids take baths or showers at other people's houses until they were old enough to do so alone with the bathroom door locked.

12) Most important - pray with them before they go. Pray over them while they're gone. Remind them to pray for you while they're gone.

I don't know if you still want answers on letting the kids play at other people's houses, etc? (That was where I had more problems growing up.) Sleeping over seemed to be the big issue, so I focused on it. Let me know if you still want thoughts on playdates and such.

Renee said...

Hello from North Carolina!

I and a few of my best friends follow your blog all the time!
We even did Her Hands for our ladies bible study at the first of Spring....We love you, your church, and your friends and we pray for you guys all the time...My kids pray for your kids and Jasmine and any future children God chooses to bless in your home!!

I too have some memories in my head that I would like to forget from sleepovers and such growing up. This is a great topic!

My kids love sleepovers! We started first around 2 by letting our kids sleepover at our parents homes. That was enough until around 6 or so.
I am blessed with many close friends that I have served with at church for a long time. Most of us have kids around the same age so it makes it easier. Sometimes we do slumber parties at each others houses for all the kids so that the other parents can have a night out.
We have been a homeschool family 4 about 6 years! We love it but honestly sometimes we can all benefit from a night away from one another!
Other than close (I mean very close friends) my kids do not spend the night with families that we do not know intimately.
They have many non christian friends...those kids just spend the night with us and get to experience some great times!
Also My children are sensitive to our families standards for entertainment and will often call and ask about movies and games that they feel are questionable.
I know that they cannot and shouldnot be protected from every thing else that goes on in this world at all times. They have often seen and experienced things that they had questions about. We just talk about them. Actually we have watched shows together at home that we have had to discuss as a family etc....
Also we have 1 very special single young adult friend whom my children adore and we trust completely. She asks for our kids about once every 2 months and they get soo excited!! She comes and takes them all kinds of places!! Gives them manicures and tea parties! I have all girls!
Thanks to all the ladies who share your thoughts!

Feldman Family said...

there are only a handful of homes that i will allow my kids to spend the night at. just being "church friends" isn't enough to pass the criteria in our family.there are a few homes that are ok in our book. these are homes where i KNOW the parents and know their parenting style. even in the church, there is such a variety of expectations for kids, rules, discipline, etc.

as our kids have grown, our rules have grown with them. for instance, we allowed megan to go to a swim party of a girl from school. there was near-nudity (i think they are called bikinis), coarse joking and lots of boy talk. megan just removed herself each time that the situation became inappropriate. we know that the Lord is using her in public schools to be a witness for Him!
tyler on the other hand has less freedom, because he isn't able to remove himself from situations yet. he tendency is to follow the crowd.
emma is on almost "lock-down" she will follow suit to almost anything and is very influenced right now.

my favorite idea is to be THE HOUSE that all the kids spend the night. this short-cuts so many potential problems....our house=our rules

there is definately a balance of allowing your kids to be used vs. protecting them from situations. as they spiritually mature, the Holy Spirit can guide us as parents in each scenario to help protect our kids, while still allowing them to witness to their lost friends.
bottom line is that this parenting thing takes A LOT of prayer!! :)

Jenny C. said...

In my opinion, just because it's "popular" in our society to have sleepovers doesn't mean it's a "must."

Right now (my oldest is 8) I am perfectly comfortable saying "that's not something we do" except with out of town guests (whose parents are with them at our house or I am with my kids at their house.) This is something that happens probably every 2 months or so in our family. I know that wouldn't be the case for everyone.

I think there is a lot less potential damage to my children when looking back on their lives to say "I didn't do sleepovers except with our best friends from out of town" than "I remember at my friend's house when I was exposed to/did/experienced ________"

Of course, I know that this may change as they get older, but I'm good with it being what we're doing right now.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this post recently over at the Mango Times blog. It is a tough subject. My eight year old stays overnight only at our very close friends home with their boys. We know their values and what is in their home. I am reluctant to expand sleepovers to anyones home that I do not know very very well. Read this post for another perspective:

yolanda spearman said...

I remember tons of talks about sex and other nasty things I would LOVE to protect my children from for as long as possible happening while walking home from school, while playing with neighbors on my street, and hanging out after school unsupervised.

Lea of Farmhouse Blessings said...

Honestly, I don't see any reason for a sleepover. What can't they do all day that they need to spend the night doing? I have 3 boys (19, 15 & 12) and have never done sleepovers. My boys are happy & well adjusted.

And when they're invited to sleepovers, we just say ... "Luke is welcome to spend the day but we don't do sleepovers". Very simple. No long explanations. No apologies.

Is that overprotective? I don't think so. My dad was pastor of our local church growing up, and my sister & I were allowed to spend the night with a church family very close to ours. The mild mannered, devoted father of that family was sexually abusing his two daughters unbenownst to us. There were signs that he had been priming me for similar abuse. My parents never suspected, and neither did I until later I could see with mature eyes what was happening.

And it was at an adult Aunt & Uncle's home that I was first (and only) time exposed to pornography.

I feel we are to protect our children while we training them for what they might ultimately face in real life. But exposure to these things does not constitute training in my definition.

Of course in the case of our oldest son, we are no longer training but in the position as counsel to him. And we still suggest against him putting himself in a position where he will be exposed to sinful behaviors and attitudes.

This is simply how our family has chosen to handle this issue, and it has worked for us.

Blessings ~