Sleepovers: who needs them? "Not us!" say many voices on the Mumsnet Pre-teens Talk board. Not only are the events themselves nightmarish (the noise, the mess, the fallings-out, the chaos) but the aftermath, too, is a disaster (kids too tired to function - sometimes for days; broken friendships; grumpy parents; damaged houses).
But that's the downside. Is there an upside? Hell, yes! Sleepovers, say Mumsnetters, are a pre-teen ritual. They're about growing up, surviving overnight in a home that's not your own, rubbing aong with other kids. So of course your child has to both host them, and go to them. But no-one said parenting was easy, did they...
Sleepovers at your house
You have to let them happen, but you musn't let them happen too often. Never on a school night, and not (say some weary Talk veterans) even on a term-time weekend. Save them for school holidays, birthday parties and special occasions. And don't have too many children at them, either.
Draw up your own survival rules, and stick by them. Decide what foods you'll allow, and which you won't (sweets in the bedroom? Chocolate on the sofa bed?). Decide how many movies they can watch, and make sure you know which ones they are (and the classification).
Decide on when it's 'lights out', when it's 'keep the noise down' and when it's genuinely 'go to sleep' time (if, indeed, you are going to insist on a sleep time at all – some sleepovers never involve any shut-eye at all).
Sleepovers are easier to survive if you accept they're going to be noisy, messy and inconvenient. Whatever happens, try not to lose your cool. Concentrate on counting down the hours until hometime.
Sleepovers at friends' houses
There are some quite heated debates on the Mumsnet Talk boards about how much checking up you need to do as a parent before you let your child go to the house of a school friend for a sleepover.
Should you 'vet' the family? One poster described being worried about what to do when her 11 year old, who had just started at secondary school, was invited for a sleepover at the house of a new friend. Should she let her go?
Many other Mumsnetters thought these worries were excessive, but that it was definitely a good idea to check the family out (call them, go in when you drop your child off, make sure you've got their landline number etc).
What Mumsnetters say about sleepovers
- I think sleepovers can be great. But I would always, at least, speak to the parents on the phone first. My son is in Year 7, but I still just give a quick call to the parents who are having having the sleepover to ask if there is anything my son can take. ElephantsCanRemember
- We all have to take numerous leaps of faith as parents. The most important thing is to make sure you teach your child to keep safe, trust their instincts and spell out exactly what inappropriate behaviour to look out for. Proudnscary