We recently got an e-mail from Danielle, who was in a quandary. Her child had been invited to sleep over at a friend's house and she explained that she would prefer her child to not go, but readily welcomed the invitee to come stay at their home. "What do you think?" she inquired.
I think she is 100 percent correct.
Every home has a standard of conduct, a standard of what entertainment is or isn't allowed, how much supervision children are under, what they are allowed to eat and drink. It's unfair to throw your children into another home and expect them to be able to make wise choices when under the care of an adult stranger.
My family has moved seven times and for that reason, trust me, I understand the dilemma of social invitations made to my children. Much like Danielle, I took the approach that my children would not spend the night in anyone's home until I had been in the home and spent some time with the family who had done the inviting.
Not surprisingly, many parents felt the same way, so it took a while for overnight visits to occur. My husband and I made the decision early on that the safety of our children was more important than anything else and our children understood why they missed out on a few things. But they accepted our judgment.
I can recall many times my children asking me to plan a day to be with "so-and-so's mom" because they knew I had to get to know the mom first.
Keep in mind there are many alternatives to overnight visits--we had many after-school play dates that allowed child bonding and parent bonding. We also enjoyed inviting families over for dinner in an effort to get to know them better. God has an excellent way of providing discernment in these situations.
I encourage you to reach out to others and maintain an open home policy, but stick with your judgment and always err on the side of caution when deciding whether or not to allow your child to go into the home of someone else. If they are a family that can be trusted with your child, they will understand; if they become insulted by your standards, that may be an indication of something, too.
It is also important to teach your children to notice what's going on around them. Ask lots of questions of your children anytime they return from someone else's home and equip them to spot and avoid uncomfortable or dangerous situations. My children know they should never be alone with an adult or older sibling. They know they should always call and ask permission to watch anything on TV or play anything on a game system or computer.
I call my children to see how it's going and we have a code word that let's me know,"I'm uncomfortable--come and get me." If that occurs, I say it's because I want them home, not because they have asked to leave. Texting is a great way to see how things are going as well. As they have grown older, I have released some entertainment areas to their judgment, but when in doubt they are asked to call.
Do you have any thoughts on this topic? I'd love for you to add to this conversation by leaving a comment.
Copyright © 2009 Tracey Eyster. All rights reserved. Used by permission.