Sleeping over at a friend’s place is a quite commonplace activity for kids, and is often welcomed as a break for parents in this hectic day and time.
1. Your child should only be allowed to go on sleepovers when you feel confident that they comprehend what private parts are and know that there are boundaries to what is allowable.
2. Only have sleepovers with friends or family that you know well, and that you are comfortable are supportive of body safety rules – don’t hesitate to ask or talk about abuse prevention with them. If you are hesitant to raise the topic then you shouldn’t be comfortable leaving your child in their care without your presence.
3. Make sure that you know who will be in the house, and that you’ve met or know about any older siblings, other family members or partners/friends who might also be there.
4. Also have a ‘safe’ word that you’ve taught your child so that if they need to call you and ask for help they can do so safely. Also make sure that they have access to a phone or nowadays a child-safety watch phone, which allows your child to call you. For example, “I need my toothbrush” or “I forgot my medicine” may be a good way for your child to let you know they need you.
You should also apply these rules for play dates. It is our responsibility as parents to know who is around our children. Inversely, you should be open and receptive to broaching the topic of childhood abuse and body safety if your child is entertaining friends for a sleepover.
After time spent away it’s always a good idea to ask your child in a quiet moment whether they enjoyed themselves and felt comfortable. Remember to watch for any changes in behavior, and always make sure that you reinforce body safety rules and boundaries – it’s not a one-time discussion, but rather something to reinforce on a regular basis. These basics could help prevent your child from becoming a #MiniMeToo.