Thursday, 5 April 2012

Should children under 10 have coed sleepovers?

Children under ten will seldom want a coed sleepover. At this age, they're more likely to want to stick to playing with pals of the same sex. Boys don't want to catch "girl germs" and girls have a similar aversion to "boy germs". In the school yard, they may chase each other, or engage in snowball fights but the games tend to be adversarial, rather than sociable.

Any parent who tries to host a coed sleepover for children in this age group, is in for a wild night. Not only will the noise level grow progressively louder as the evening advances, but the play will become quite rough and tumble. There is a real danger that someone will get hurt.

There are other reasons for avoiding coed sleepovers for the under-ten crowd. Children are naturally curious. While they may not have developed any sexual feelings as yet, they could take advantage of the opportunity to "play doctor", or engage in other inappropriate activities. You'll have to supervise the party closely, and you may be accused of being a "buttinsky", and of spoiling the fun.

Your own child, instead of being grateful for your efforts to entertain his friends, may resent your presence and ask you to leave. When you refuse, he'll be upset, because you're insinuating that you don't trust him and his friends. Do you really need this aggravation?

In a few years, coed sleepovers will be out of the question anyway. Why establish a precedent? If they've never been acceptable, it will not be obvious when they suddenly stop, as the young people enter their teens.

When the subject of a coed sleepover first arises, it provides an excellent opportunity for parents to express their value system as it applies to a real-life situation. The wise parent will use the occasion to point out that in this family, the rule is that boys and girls do not be sleep under the same roof unless they are married, or members of the family. The lesson will be remembered, because the child is intensely interested in the matter at hand. Although he may not now realize the significance of the rule, he'll remember your words in the future, when the issue will be much more significant.

If you want to have a coed party for your child, there are plenty of alternative choices to a sleepover. An afternoon of bowling, boys against the girls, followed by pizza, would be a memorable gathering. How about a movie followed by a meal at a fast food restaurant? In the summer, an afternoon in the pool and a barbecue; in winter a skating party with hot chocolate and a smorgasbord of desserts to follow, either would be fun celebrations for the under-ten crowd.

Coed sleepovers for children are not advisable or especially enjoyable for this age group. For the parent, they mean a long night of noise, frustration, and acting as referee as the prepubescent battle of the sexes rages around you. For the kids, it will be hours of snickering, showing off, howling, wrestling, name-calling, hurt feelings and maybe worse. Wouldn't a good movie and a Happy Meal be a preferable alternative?

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