Teen Sleepovers

Archived Q&A and Reviews


14-year-old's gender-bending sleepovers

May 2016

I have a 14 y.o. whose close group of friends includes straight kids, gay kids (girls & boys), and transgender kids. They are very close, like siblings, and fiercely protective of each other. Sometimes they ask to have group sleepovers, and we parents are stumped...what should the rules be regarding sleepovers for such a gender-non conforming group? Any non-judgmental advice is welcome. We love these kids and love that their love for their friends is unconditional.
Berkeley mom of 3

I don't think it is wise to have sleepovers with teens of the opposite sex or gender. There is very little sleeping that happens at sleepovers so I would opt to be on the safe side on this one. There are many fun activities that teens can do together that don't involve overnights: bowling, miniature golfing, seeing a movie, going out to dinner, a concert, the beach, a college game, a hike, throwing a party, etc. Anon

My short answer is this -- let them have the overnight parties and don't put any restrictions on them you wouldn't put on a same-sex sleepover. I could give a long list of reasons; I am passionate about both this issue and the issue of teen intimacy, with or without sexuality. I would love to talk with you more about it. Feel free to email me off-list if for no other reason than to let me know how it goes. Take care and I hope for smooth sailing for your children and their friends. And, much to my own dismay -- and due to my own uniques circumstances -- I feel compelled to write this anonymously. Please ask the moderator for my name and email address if you wish to talk further about this. == reluctantly anonymous ==

My daughter is in EXACTLY the same type of group. After the first mixed gender sleepover invitation a year ago, which appalled us, we found our comfort level in meeting the parents and checking whether or not (a) parents would be there the entire time and (b) boys and girls are in separate sleeping quarters. We chose not to address the same-sex/transgender part of it and decided to go with the kids' comfort level. So far it's been great. In fact, spontaneous sleepovers happen so often that we ask our daughter to carry her toothbrush and toothpaste in her daypack on Fridays. Fellow parent in Wonderland

Times have changed haven't they. You are describing what has become the new norm and acceptable. May I ask what you are concerned about? Once President Clinton clarified the definition of sex for us all of a sudden what was once considered sex isn't anymore. I take it you don't know what goes on at junior and senior proms nowadays. Some of the formal activities they have during the prom are what one might expect to find at bachelorette and bachelor parties. ANON

As a teen in the 80s, we had co-ed sleepovers because my male friends were gay. I still remember how fun they were. Please allow your kids to have the experience, I recommend it highly. rachel

I think it's really cool that your teen has such a tight, interesting group of friends. What would your typical rules for a sleepover be? No drinking, don't be too loud, no fooling around? Whatever you would do for a more homogenous group applies here too. impressed by your kid!

Teen girls sleeping in the same bed for sleepovers

Sept 2006

I have a fifteen year old daughter who has different friends (female) stay overnight on occcasion. They sleep in the same bed. So, we have been having a discussion about whether this is appropriate or not. In my experience growing up it was always okay for girls to share a bed, but not for boys (it was a long time ago). Do people feel this is appropriate or inappropriate? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Alan

I know many groups of girls of all ages all the way thru 18 who have slumber parties and sleep in the same beds. My 18 year old niece has grown up with all her girlfriends. They have sleepovers and watch videos and giggle and talk. They sleep together, they lay all over each other (kind of like puppies). They're all very bonded and close but I don't think there is anything sexual going on (nor does her mom).

When I was a teen I also slept with my girlfriends. I had one friend I occasionally ''experimented'' with...truthfully I think this is natural curiousity esp. at that age...by the way we are both straight and happily married to men. When we had family get togethers all the girl cousins slept in the same rooms, beds, etc. I have 2 boys, 11 and 15. When their friends sleep over they all sleep separate but next to each other on the floor. HOpe this helps. anon

A friend of mine discovered that her daughter's all girls slumber parties were in fact make out parties! She was/is supportive of her daughter being a lesbian BUT WAS NOT OKAY with sex between teenagers happening on her watch. So, she cancelled any more parties. Just something to be on the watch for. anonymous

My daughter is a senior at BHS. The bed in her room is a family heirloom four poster double bed. She and her friends share the bed when they sleep over. There's never been any reason to think that anyone has been sexual. They all seem fine with it and there's never been any discussion about it. I've never had any inklings that my daughter or her friends might be lesbians. So I'd say it's just a normal thing to do fine with me

My 15 year old daughter does this too, and I think it is totally fine. anne

I also grew-up sleeping with my friends in the same bed (still do when there's no place else) and that's how it's also been for my daughter, who's now a teenager. If they are comfortable with it then why question it? If it's a matter of sex and you are wondering if they are lovers? Then you should talk to your daughter about it and discuss the same things you would if she had a boyfriend. Is she okay with the level of intimacy, is she ready for whatever may come up, does she feel comfortable saying ''no, not yet'', etc. And you might think about how you feel about them fooling around in your house. My mother let my boyfriends sleep over, it would be hard for me to say no to my daughter if she was in a mutually respectful and intimate relationship with someone I liked and trusted. That's not to say it wouldn't be a little uncomfortable. So, okay, if none of that was happening and it was just a friend sleeping over, I think it's fine and perfectly appropriate! anon

13-year-old's sleep overs with friend I don't trust

June 2006

my son has had several sleepovers with a friend of his (pretty much his only friend) over the past few years, however, after recent events we have decided this is not a good idea. we told my son that he was getting too old for sleepover, but the real reason is that it seems that this other boy, whom he wants to have a sleep over with, doesn't appear to be the best influence. he has mentioned things about friends of his that show a lap in judgement on his part by associating with them; sneaky behavior that appears that they are up to no good. along with the simple fact, which i realize is my own person bias, that this kid is not motivated to excel in school (which is not good for my son who is struggling academically) and at almost 15 has no interest in hanging out with friends his own age and seems a bit immature. my son, unfortunately, is pretty passive and would just follow the crowd or likely do whatever this kid wants.

for the most part i am guessing they are just being juvenile boys and staying up too late playing video games, but this kids' parents work late and are not home for much of the night, and again, i don't like the sneaky attitudes. and, i don't like not knowing what they are doing or what is going on.

so, my dilemma. i have told my son ''no more sleepovers, you're too old'' and then in a tired moment, said something to the effect that maybe only at our house. he has now called me a liar and said that i first said it was he was too old, and now it's for a different reason. i am curious, do other parents allow their 13-15 yr. old boys have sleep overs? for some reason it seem different to me for girls, and i am probably wrong, but would like to get feedback. i know that i can't choose my kids' friends, but would like to curb the time that my son is spending with someone who doesn't seem to be a positive influence. -argh. the teenage years!

I'm not sure how common our experience has been with overnights for our now 16 year old son, but for him overnights came to mean a chance to stay out all night, drink and do drugs with his friends. He has been sober for a year (and also now has a girlfriend) so the issue of sleepovers rarely arises anymore. It sounds as though you have a strong sense that something isn't right about the boy your son wants to have sleepovers with-I would go with your intuition and explain to your son that though it may not seem rational/ reasonable to him you reserve the right to make decisions concerning his well-being. Sometimes a strong sense of discomfort without any hard evidence is all we have to go on when we make decisions for our teens. I wish we had trusted our intuition earlier on Best Wishes

Yes, we allow our 13 year old son to both host and attend sleepovers. Our 15 year old daughter, too. I think you are right that sleepovers are more popular among girls, but the basic principles behind allowing them or not is the same.

I think you would do best to come clean about your real motivation, without necessarily targeting that one friend too heavily. My kids have heard several times in recent months something from me like, ''I'm alarmed at what I've been reading in the papers about teen parties. From now on, ...'' They don't love it but they cope, I think because they respect it underneath.

So say, no being at someone's house when their parent's aren't home (this is our rule.) And then step up to the plate and let this kid come over to your house once in a while and monitor them. Say no 2/3 of the time they ask for your own reasons (I'm too tired tonight, I need to do X) and let him come 1/3 of the time. That way you are not branding the friend as trouble and making him more desirable or bringing out the loyalty, but hopefully limited time will make the friendship dwindle anne

My son is 18. He had sleepovers with friends throughout his high school years. It was fine with me as long as they were kids I knew, and the parent was there, or if they were at my house. I'm not sure that sleepovers are your real concern -- sounds like the real worry is that his friend is a negative influence. Have you tried talking to him about the behaviors or attitudes that you see in his friend, and telling your son what you find worrisome or unacceptable? Maybe he would respond better if you tell him straight out what you're worried about. One of my son's friends had some problems. This friend had a tendency to be disrespectful to his parents (but never to me), got poor grades, and occasionally broke rules but received little or no punishment. My son knew that we liked the friend, but we also were clear that we didn't like the disrespect/bad grades/rulebreaking and wouldn't accept it from our son, or from anyone in our house. My son still remained loyal to his friend but never exhibited any of the problem behaviors we saw in his friend, and I'm proud of him for both keeping the friend and keeping his own head straight. So, I'd recommend being honest with your son, and don't forget to really listen to what your son has to say about his friend and himself. Good luck to you Pro-sleepover Mom

my 16 yr old son still spends the night with friends - often and happily. I had a similar situation with my younger son - 14 - 2 kids who made bad decisions together and weren't working up to their potential. I told them both what I thought about their decisions and that they could not hang out until at least my sons grades improved. Which happened for both of them! After that, they had very clear expectations when at our house.......clean up, checking in the cell phones , no late nights only home when adults there.......I can say that they have really changed and become 2 kids i enjoy being around. I think the other parents were happy that i set the limits and confronted their stupid, immature decision making- do i trust them entirely? no, but more now and they are acting more mature......all part of growing up..... DO tell them of your concerns, don't fib or lie and say he's too old for sleepovers. Do not let them be home w/o parental supervision. mom of boys

17-year-old having friends sleep over

March 2006

I need your input! My 17 year old (male) is constantly having friends sleep over..usually one or two at a time..and he sleeps over too. I wasn't uncomfortable with this until he turned 16 and grades drops, money was taken from my purse and when I confronted him on liquior I found in his backback. Now's he's 17, missing school, looking like he's an gorilla with hair and beard everywhere and he has absolutely not interest in anything. I know he's bright but lazy. From the outside everything now is suspicious about ''any'' of his behavoirs. But my main concern for this email is a 17 year old sleep overs? Input? Thanks!

Both of my older sons do/did the sleepover thing. My oldest, now a freshman in college, had ocassional sleepovers and it was generally a practical thing (staying out too late to drive home with a provisional license). My high school freshman constantly has friends sleep over or he sleeps at their homes. I think it's because teen boys are most awake and social at night so that's when they want to hang out with their friends. There's no harm so long as they're at somebody's house and the parents are okay with it (that's the rule, parents must speak to parents to make sure there is adult supervision and that the sleepover is okay). That said, neither of my sons' grades were effected, there was no problem behavior associated with having friends over, but I'm careful and keep all alcohol out of reach just in case (why give them temptation?). So I guess it depends on the kid, but the key for me is that parents need to know where their kids are and who's in charge. marissa

Of the issues you mentioned, sleepovers are the least urgent, although with your son they require vigilance on your part. I would take a different tack -- how nice that he still wants to bring his friends into your house! How much safer is he there than somewhere else?

A separate issue is the behaviors, and I would take the position that a) he has responsibility for his friends' actions while they are at your house, and b) if you can't trust him, you certainly can't trust him with a friend.

I don't think kids are ever too old for sleepovers, but I do think that you have the right to expect ANY kid, at ANY age, to follow the rules of your house, and (like many restaurants say) ''You have the right to refuse service to anyone.'' Three 17 year olds here, tonight....

Dear Mom, I think all things depend upon the teen and their situation. You have mentioned many things: grades dropping missing money perhaps lying? missing school alcohol in his back pack negative behavioral patterns/ changes in behavior These may need your primary attention, focusing on the 'sleep over' and whether other teens do this at this age or not, does not appear to be a main issue.

As long as your son lives in your house, he needs to abide by your rules. As long as he is a minor you bear legal responsibility for him. What are your rules? Do you have clear rules? Do you enforce them? How do you enforce them? Does your son recognize and comply with them? What are his values? Your rules need to be on target and reasonable, but they do not necessarily need to be what other people do. They need to work for you both and support your mutual goals, and hopefully not be neglectful or abusive.

In our house if our daughter's grades slip or she misses school even due to illness, her weekend privileges are restricted until the grades go back up or she has not missed any school or been late for several weeks. No energy for school, no energy for extra-curricular. While you are in school your main job is your school work. However we reward her in many ways when she is able to stay with her commitments - especially verbally.

For the last few years since she is growing up - if she protests - I ask her if she were in her parents' place what would she do to make sure her teenager made her commitments. Sometimes she agrees with us and sometimes she comes up with a better idea. If we all agree then we do that. Otherwise we stay with the parents' program.

Try to stay consistent, talk with your son, seek counseling, write things down between you for clarity. Guidance or career counseling might be helpful to help your son sort out what he wants to do in life and what he needs to do now to achieve that. Sounds like his life goals need some attention. He might need a constructive hobby or a part-time job to provide more structure and maybe explore who he is and what he wants to do.

If alcohol or substance abuse is in the immediate family - he needs specific treatment evaluation and help as soon as possible or if you suspect the drinking is something that has been going on for some time. You might want to seek professional advice on this topic right now. Alcohol in a backpack sounds like he may be drinking every day. Whoever is buying it for him or giving it to him is violating the law and can be prosecuted. Please get some help about the real problems in your life. It is out there. Best wishes and sincere hope that you find what you need. anon

14-year-old wants to go to a coed sleepover

Feb 2002

Our 14 year old daughter has asked us if she can attend a sleepover at a friend's house that would be co-ed. The breakdown would be slightly more boys than girls (sounded like around 10-12 people). We have said probably not, but that we are willing to consider the possibility if she gets us more information. She insists that everyone else is in this group of friends is allowed to do this. A few of them are 10th or 11th graders, but most are also 9th graders. She also says that none of them are paired off into couples. We know that she is not. I guess my real question is, have any (or would any) of you let a 14 year old attend a co-ed sleepover?

Hmmm. Don't think I would; but I am conservative in this regard. There'll be plenty of opportunity for co-ed sleepovers when they're in college. Also, whenever I hear the phrase everyone else's parent says it's okay, I immediately go to the phone and start calling all of these free-wheeling parents; usually I hear a rather different story. Anonymous

I think that unless your goal is to encourage sexual experimentation, it is not a good idea to permit your child to go to a co-ed sleepover. No matter how trustworthy your particular child is, it is too tantalizing for many (if not most) teenagers, with raging hormones, to spend the night together. My experience raising 3 children (two of whom are now adults), and working as a nurse with adolescents for over 20 years leaves me 100% convinced of this.

As to the age old complaint everyone else can go I have always responded with something along the lines of I am not their mother. Doing what I can to help keep you safe is enough work for me. Good luck. Lori

No. -- Barbara

To the parent asking about co-ed sleepovers for her 14 year old. I have not allowed my daughters to go to co-ed sleepovers (15 and 17). It is against my better judgement, I don't think kids need that level of intimacy at that age, I think it puts a pressure on kids to be comfortable when they may not. I also feel kids ask to do things, not because they want to do it but because of peer pressure and they welcome being told no from time to time---even if it doesn't appear so. I am fairly sure that all the other girls are not allowed ( I also don't care if ALL the others get to do so, I feel as a parent it is my responsibility to respond to what is best for my child and not what the group does; and thus teach my child to make independent decisions about this, drinking, drugs, sex, etc). Anyway, just my thoughts... Anon.

I think that allowing your child to go to a Co-ed sleepover is asking for trouble, especially when there are older kids, ie sophmores and juniors(or older). There is no supervision that goes on in the middle of the night and who knows what can happen or what kind of a situation your child may be put in. I have 3 girls (18,16 and 11) and I don't think this kind of party is common. If it were, I still wouldn't let them go. The only time I think this might be acceptable is after a prom.----Christine Carr

No way! I really believe you're asking for trouble if you allow your 14-year old daughter to attend a co-ed sleepover. First of all, every teenager from the beginning of time has always insisted to their parents that everyone else is . . . allowed to do this. Don't be swayed. I feel there are certain times when you have to be unequivocal in your decisions. Also, parents need to restrain their children's plunge into becoming an adult-child, one that acts and looks like she or he is 18, but is really 14. My advice -- tell her that you don't approve of co-ed sleepovers with such a mixed group, too many boys and too many 10th and 11th graders, and don't even ask for more information. From past experience with my child, I know there are quite a few 10th and 11th graders who drink heavily and more often than not they're boys at that age, and the temptation is too great for a young 14-year old to not want to act older and be cooler than she really has to be. Don't put her in that situation -- she's too young now, but she can show her maturity in the meantime by taking no from you with reasonable calm. She can just tell her friends that her parents are really strict and won't allow it. At least, she gave it a good try. By allowing this much freedom now, you'll open Pandora's box. A sliding scale of strictness works -- at 14, you're much more restrictive and if your child shows maturity (gets relatively good grades, tells you the who/what/when/where/why of a situation, checks in with you when you ask, has a reasonable curfew and sticks to it), each year you can allow her more freedom. You know your daughter best, so you have to set the parameters that will keep her reasonably reined in, yet make her happy that she'a making progress as a person and as a teenager. --j.a.

We were fortunate enough to host a New Year's, co-ed, overnight party for our 14 year old daughter this year. It was wonderful. I think it can be a fine event with some advance planning, a nice group of kids, and responsible, but relaxed host parents.

We set up a bunch of rules with our daughter, beforehand. There were a dozen guests, max. No uninvited extra friends allowed. Everyone brought sleeping bags. There was to be a girls' sleeping room, and a boy's sleeping room. No one could hang out outside the house, in front. We packed up all alcoholic beverages in the house and took them to the garage. I talked with most of the parents of the guests, when they called.

When the kids came over, I taught those who were interested how to make vegetarian sushi rolls. Then pizza arrived. The kids milled around the whole night between our daughter's room, and our open plan, living room / kitchen. We rented several DVD's, and one guest brought more. These played continuously in the living room. (Our younger child slept over at his friend's house.) We provided a bunch of disposable cameras for the kids to play with. My husband and I even got to go out to a friend's house for dinner, because one of our neighbors, for whom my daughter babysits, came over to babysit the party for us from 8 till midnight!

We adults hung out mostly in a front room that serves as my office, with all doors in the house left open. Occaisionally we joined the kids in one room or the other, watching the movie, or hanging out, but we tried to be very low impact, and give them some privacy.

The only tough part was that hardly anyone got any sleep at all, it being New Year's Eve. Things finally got quiet between 7 and 9 a.m. (My husband slept from 2 a.m. till 7. I took the 7 to 9 shift, and dozed lightly between 4 and 7!) And then there were doughnuts and cereal for breakfast. One of the guests brought fruit. Everyone helped with clean up at midnight and at 9. Parents came to pick their kids up around 10 or 11 a.m.

This was a very well-behaved bunch of kids, most of whom go to school together, and live scattered around the Bay Area, which is part of what made it work out. I was delighted that my daughter felt comfortable enough about us, and her friends, to have them all over for the night. It was fun to hang out and get to know them.

Oh, and that girls'-room-and-boys'-rooms-for-sleeping concept? Forget it. In the event, it didn't really happen that way. By 7 a.m. they just fell wherever they were, as the photos from the instant camera attest, some in armchairs with coats over their heads, three sprawled across a made bed, one on the couch, another on the carpet, etc, except for that photographer....

Perhaps you might like to call the hosting parents, and see how that conversation feels to you?

I was a little amazed at the overwhelming, vehemently negative attitude of PoT parents in the 02/21/02 newsletter, regarding overnight events for teens. We took a small group of teens to a cabin in Yosemite, for a few days of snowboarding, X-country skiing and a spot of downhill. We send our daughter out with Cal Adventures and other co-ed, teen adventure camping trips in the summer. Overnight doesnt have to mean neglect, sex, drugs, and deviance! Of course, it does make sense to find out what you are signing up for, and to take sensible precautions against unsupervised mishaps. The kids will have to learn how to make their own decisions about difficult issues, sooner or later, one just doesn't want these to be in a context where the consequences of a mistake will be dire.

My daughter (now 17) was not invited to such a sleepover but had she asked to go to one I would have said definitely no! I can think of no reason for boys and girls of high school age to spend the night together. We can be assured they will not be supervised by adults for all that time, if at all. If only one or two kids at such an event get involved in drinking, drugs or sex that's too many from my perspective. It may be that some kids at such a party don't get into any trouble, but why should they be placed in a position to witness the wanderings of others? Will teens complain that parents are old-fashioned and they're the *only parents* who said no? Yes. Let them complain and let them feel boundaries being enforced.

Just a P.S. in response to Anon who was amazed at the overwhelmingly negative response to co-ed sleepovers. It's not that overnights are about neglect, sex, drugs and deviance -- the sex, drugs and rock 'n roll image that still emanates from MTV and brainwashes teenagers and adults alike. The question is: Are you comfortable with your 14-year old daughter making a decision like this sooner or later? The issue is not about co-ed sleepovers that are organized (Cal Adventures has you sign authorization and release forms, taking responsibility for your child), or parent-supervised (like an excursion to Yosemite). The specifics of this situation speak to whether you're willing to let your 14-year old daughter make her own decision in a context where the facts presented are that there are 10-12 kids, mixed in age from 14 to 17, and mixed in gender (with the given that being a teenager is risky business). Most parents appear not to be. I fully agree that teens will have to learn to make their own decisions about difficult issues sooner or later, and how do you know whether the context will have dire consequences or not, when the element of risk is always there. I've read statistics that show the teenage years are those years where the highest percentage of risk-taking (and fatalities) occurs from infancy to adulthood. Makes you wonder how you made it this far alive, with or without suffering the severe trauma of being a teenager.

For what it's worth, the middle school and high school youth of our church have co-ed sleepovers all the time. They're like a bunch of puppies in a pile and all good friends. We have noticed when we get together with churches that have strictly segregated their kids there is a very different feeling - the sexual energy is rampant and the adults have to patrol all night to keep the kids apart. I can't say which is cause and which is effect, but I do know that having all the kids sleeping together, such sleep as there is, has never been a problem. The same could be said for my 14 year old daughter's class camping trips. Anon.

Sept 2000

We have a 15-year old son whose most important friends and companions at school are three girls his age. We don't really have a problem with that, although we would like to see him also forge friendships with males. Over the summer he was invited to a mixed overnight cast party (different kids), which we felt somewhat uncomfortable with but allowed him to attend. We have now been approached about another sleepover party (our son and three 14 to 15-year-old girls) at the house of one of the girls to celebrate his birthday. We have said an emphatic no this time, responding to a gut feeling that it is just not appropriate although he has come up with some pretty logical pro arguments. Just curious what other parents of teens think about this situation. Anonymous

My son spends a lot of time with girls. He has a few guy friends, but the majority of his socializing is with one or more of the girls he is friends with. He has gone away (with the family) to the vacation home of one girl, has been the only boy at a 10 girl sleepover birthday party, etc. I've met other boys who find groups of girls to be preferable to hanging out with other guys. My son thinks most guys speak badly of girls, talk too much about sex and are a bit too macho for him. [not going to get too much argument from me on these points]

We recently had a large group here (2 guys, 7 girls) and I briefly overheard them all talking quite frankly about their lives and their concerns about sex and drugs and friendships. It was pretty innocent. And heartening.

I'd listen closely to how your son speaks about these all girl situations and what they do when they hang out together. Find out why he likes these girls. It may be more valuable/innocent than you'd imagine. Anonymous