7 TOP TIPS TO ENSURE YOUR CHILDREN'S SAFETY AT SLEEPOVERS
As your children move through elementary school, they will eventually start being invited to sleepovers. Most of us adults can remember those fun times we had as children ourselves and don’t want to deprive our own kids of such fun memories and experiences. However, many parents feel slightly uneasy about letting their child, of any age, be in another parent’s hands for several hours at a time, especially overnight. Here are the top 7 things you should ask before allowing your child to attend a sleepover. You may already know most of these answers, but if not, it might be worth having a conversation.
1. Is there a gun in the house?
The comfort level a parent feels varies vastly on this topic, but many are okay with a gun being in the home, as long as it is locked away, unloaded and completely hidden to the homeowner’s children. According to Giffords Law Center, “4.6 million American children and minors are living in homes with at least one loaded and unlocked firearm.”
Experts warn that even if you discuss gun safety regularly with your children, there is still a huge risk if proper gun ownership is not taken. When you have this conversation with the parent, ensure that the unloaded gun is locked separately from any bullets. Kids are curious, and often don’t use the best judgement when they are with their friends. It is best to make it impossible for a child to access a gun, even if you, or the gun owner, feels they have adequately taught their children proper gun safety.
Of course having a proper gun safety conversation with your child before allowing them to attend a sleepover is necessary. Remind them to never assume a gun is a toy and always ask an adult before touching it. Don’t be afraid to put fear into a child in regards to seeing a gun. It is never okay for a child, or teenager, to have access to a gun and if they find themselves around one while at a sleepover, they must take action immediately. Depending on the situation, calling 911 and leaving the area if a responsible adult is not present is required. Running through different scenarios with your child could be key to their complete safety.
2. Will the children be left at the home alone for any period of time?
The age at which parents feel comfortable leaving their children at home for any length of time varies widely. Some parents feel comfortable leaving their 10 year old at home for an hour or so, where as some would not find that a feasible option. Many factors are involved in this decision as well, including maturity, the surrounding neighborhood, and whether there are other children in the home. Because of the many cases, it is best to be direct and ask the parent before leaving your child. You may not want your 10 year old left alone for any amount of time, but their friend’s parents may do that on a regular basis. Offer to bring the children to your home for a sleepover if the parents were planning on running errands for a few hours.
3. Who else will be in the home?
Unfortunately, child abuse happens, and it is usually in a time and place you least expect it. According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, children are most vulnerable to childhood sexual assault between the ages of 7 and 13. Although in most of these cases, a child is abused by someone they know very well, like a close family member, it is still best to ensure you feel completely comfortable with whichever adults are in the home before leaving your child. Is an uncle visiting that will be with the kids unsupervised for a few hours? Will an older child be home from college? Know the details to ensure your child’s safety.
4. Will your child have access to a pool?
You most likely know the answer to this before dropping your child off, but if not, ask the question. Is there a pool at the home? If so, what precautions are taken to ensure your child doesn’t have access to one without adult supervision? Families have different levels and types of pool security and since they have children, they often have pretty tight pool safety procedures in place. However, your curious child may see the pool and wander over to check it out without an adult present. Make sure there are steps taken to eliminate that possibility.
5. What fire safety elements are present in the home?
You may have smoke detectors installed throughout your home and change the batteries every 6 months, but not everyone is in the same boat. Don’t assume these precautions are taken because they literally could mean the difference between life or death in the event of a fire. According to ABC News, “the National Fire Protection Association recommends homes should have smoke alarms installed inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. So that means a 2 story, 3 bedroom house needs a minimum of five smoke alarms.” Does the home where the sleepover is taking place meet these requirements?
Another factor to consider is where the sleepover is taking place in the home. Fire safety experts recommend having at least 2 escape routes in every room. If one route is blocked, there is always another. Make sure your child is sleeping in a room that they can easily escape in the event of the smoke detectors alarming them awake in the middle of the night. If the children are sleeping in a basement with only one way out, you may request that they move upstairs before they settle in for the night.
As always, preparing your child for proper fire safety etiquette is crucial. They need to understand what to do when the smoke detectors go off, to stay low when possible, and to get out fast.
6. Will your child be watching rated-R movies all night?
As a parent, you may greatly limit the types of movies, tv shows and playstation games your child is allowed to view, but not all parents have the same values and rules. Does your child not want a sleepover at your house, but always seems to beg to go to the neighbor’s house? Well, there is a good chance they don’t have quite as strict rules as you do. Discussing this with the other child’s parents and finding that balance is key for a successful, yet fun, sleepover for the kids.
7. Is alcohol accessible, and easy to obtain, in the home?
According to Kids Health, some kids have their first drink as early as 10 or 11 year old! If you remember anything from childhood, it’s that peer pressure is real. Even those children who would never take a sip of alcohol may give in to peer pressure in social situations. It is normal to be curious about new things, like alcohol, so the best method is to ensure the kids at the sleepover have absolutely no way of getting a hold of it.
There is so much to consider when allowing your child to attend a sleepover at another child’s home. If you feel uncomfortable at all, offer to host the sleepover yourself, where you know any guns are locked properly, alcohol is not in the home and the children will be sleeping on the first floor with plenty of escape routes in the event of a fire. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
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