My Tween Has a Sleepover Contract, And Yours Should, Too

My tween’s friends are predictably a bigger influence in her life as she gets older. Seeing her friends at school and during extracurricular activities just isn’t enough. At least a couple of times a month, she or one of her friends hatch the brilliant idea that they need a sleepover. Sleepovers have taken the place of playdates, so we’ve had to create a verbal contract about what she can expect from me and what I can expect from her when she spends the night somewhere else.

What we can expect from her:

She acts with integrity – We’ve defined this in our family as doing the right thing, even if there are no witnesses. This means not being sneaky or deceitful to engage in behaviors that we don’t condone in our home just because we aren’t around to supervise.

She is observant – If she sees anyone (parents, sleepover friend, sibling, etc.) uses drugs, drinking alcohol, or playing with a gun, she will excuse herself to the bathroom and use the loaner phone we give her to call us.

She is safe – She will wear her seatbelt, helmet, or any other appropriate safety gear that we usually require. Even if none of the other kids are wearing their protective gear or if the other parent says, “Eh, it’s not a big deal. You’ll be fine.” If she sees a gun, she is to leave the room immediately. Don’t touch the gun, don’t play with the gun, and don’t stand around while others are looking at it. Call home.

She is assertive and forceful – If at any time anyone (friend’s parent, sibling, long-lost uncle, great grandma, etc.) touches her in a way that she doesn’t like, she will firmly and loudly tell them to stop and will kick them in the balls or poke their eyes. Listen, I realize that she could very easily be paralyzed by fear, but we feel she’s more likely to protect herself if we’ve run through this scenario beforehand.

She stays with the group – She will politely and repeatedly decline invitations by the friend’s parents, siblings, etc. to go somewhere alone. We’ve explained that even other kids, like older teens, can have bad intentions. If someone says, “Hey, I heard you like puppies. Do you want to come see this poster I have in my office/bedroom/basement?…” she is to reply with, “No thanks. I want to stay with the group and see what they’re doing.” If a request to isolate her happens more than once, she is to call us immediately.

What she can expect from us:

Discernment – We will not let her spend the night with a family that we don’t know well. But, since unwanted touching and molestation can often happen with people we trust, she is still supposed to adhere to the guidelines above.

Device for Communication – We will provide her with a loaner cell phone so she can call us discreetly without getting permission from the homeowner to use their phone.

Designated Scapegoat – She’s never had a problem standing up to peer pressure. But, as she gets older, the pressures will intensify. If the other sleepover guests are doing something she’s uncomfortable with, she can blame her “lame mom” for declining to join the shenanigans. I’ll back her up 100% if asked. For example, if all the girls are passing around a beer one of them snuck into the party, she has my full support to lie if it’s too difficult to just abstain. She could say, “Ugh! I totally would, but my mom is crazy. She always finds out when I do stuff like that, and then I’ll be grounded forever.” Or,  “Nah. There’s barley in beer. It’s weird, but my throat starts to close up and I break out in hives when I have it sometimes. I don’t want to risk it.” We’ve discussed this in detail, and I will back her up if one of the friends asks when I pick her up in the morning “Is she really allergic to beer?” I’d go, “She hasn’t had beer, but some of the ingredients in it could cause her to have an allergic reaction.”

Drop Everything Response Time – She can call in the middle of the night, wake us up, and we will come get her for any reason without question.

Discussions in the AM – She will make mistakes. We promise there will be no lectures, yelling, or accusations if or when she calls after getting herself into a sticky situation. We never want her to feel she has to hide things from us because she’s afraid we’ll freak out and overreact. We’ll all be in a better position to discuss the misstep in the morning. If she places a “Come get me. I messed up,” phone call, we’ll pick her up, tell her we’re glad she called when things got hairy, and we’ll discuss it in the morning.

We reiterate the points of the contract with her every time we agree to a sleepover. She knows what we expect of her and what she can expect from us.

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