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More about relationships with teens: Sleepovers?

I clicked on the link to a post about whether or not you should let your teen child's boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over expecting a point of view that was very much permissive agnostic (think: the parents caricatured by the media when most of us were teens) vs. strict values-based (think: Rick Santorum). But what I got was a very reasonable post I couldn't agree with more -- basically, that sexual activity is not caused or curtailed by letting two young people of the opposite sex in a room together. And we should spend a heck of a lot more time on our relationship with our child than on putting our foot down over proprieties handed down from our parents and their parents before them. (Peggy Sue Got Married was very much top-of-mind as I read.)

I think a point of view that wasn't very much present in conversations of 20 years ago was this one: well, what about the same-gender teens? Why can they sleep over? They could be having sex, too! And while it certainly doesn't have me rubbing my hands together planning how I'll cook breakfast together with my boys' girlfriends in seven or eight or 10 years, it does have me rethinking previously-held views about such things.

For now, I'd love to hear your thoughts on something that came up in the comments on that post: the time-honored "no closing your door," or, depending on the house design, "no going into the bedroom together" with a member of the opposite sex. In general, commenters agreed that it made for bad situations; those who were having sex were doing so in cars or other semi-public places, those who weren't still didn't feel welcome to hang out in a house with "surveillance." Is this a rule you've considered imposing on your children once they hit a certain age? Or is it already in place? I've made a sort of rule like this about a neighbor kid who comes over sometimes -- I need him where I can see him. It all comes down to trust, and I trust my oldest to tell me the truth about what's going on; I don't trust the neighbor kid (a certain experience with certain Google searches performed on my computer when I was washing the dishes...).

As Rebecca said when she posted the link, the part of the relationship you develop long before sex is an issue is what will, hopefully, be a much better deterrent from bad choices made behind closed doors or up on Mt. Tabor after the sun goes down on a hot August night (not that I'd know where a good spot might be) (no way not me). And that's more of this kind of thing. I hope, anyway!


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haven't read the article yet, but i will. and i'm eager to read the comments on this one. i've talked a lot about this with my kids' dad and other parents.

i imagine it's only a question if your values allow for sex outside of a long term, commited relationship. mine do, but i come to this as my bottom line: while i had sex as a teenager, and i think it can be fine - sleeping the night together and waking up to breakfast and the weekend stretched out before you really is a different thing. there is a much greater implied intimacy and "adultness" in that. an implied commitment. to me, it looks like playing house in a way that i know i wasn't ready for - even though i had really positive relationship experience in that time. will my kids be ready for that? i don't know, but i doubt it. in adult dating relationships, there is a difference between having sex with someone and having them spend the night. i want my kids to be fully responsible for themselves in the world before they take actions that can be read by the other person as adult commitments.

all that said, i haven't faced that time yet. i know enough to say i might cahnge my thinking before we get there.

yes, that's a good point, jojo. I don't really see myself letting my own teenagers (in the future) have girls sleep over for a variety of reasons that begin with "it just doesn't seem like a good idea" and stick on "the girls' parents would HATE me." perhaps this would be something we'd work out after a long and close relationship with the other child's parents; but I certainly don't imagine encouraging it.

I think the only way I can imagine the sleepover concept in practice is on a multi-family vacation; maybe (hypothetically) your teenage children have been dating for years and, at 17, keeping them apart on the camping trip or Eurorail summer trip. OK, now I'm really entering imaginary territory :)

jojo you articulated well what I was struggling with internally. My oldest is only 8, so this issue is not around the corner for us, but your articulation helps me to sort it in my brain for the future.

The age of consent in Oregon is I believe 18 years old and by allowing kids to have sex at your house you could be opening yourself up to legal trouble. Not all people have the same ideas about this and even though you are okay with it the other child's parents might not be and they won't appreciate you providing a location for sexual activity and felony charges could result.

I have an open door, one foot on the floor policy in my house.

Kelly, I have the same policy. Especially for those under 16 years of age.

I do have one teen daughter who's 18 and I have allowed her alone time at the house with boyfriend while I run errands or see a movie on Saturday with the other kids.

I'm no prude. I hope my kids have bed shaking , bone rocking sex when they are older with partner/s who care about them.

I know of a family with a teen who thought that the other parents were on board but when the kids broke up and the situation became fraught with emotion they pursued charges against the older teen. Under 16 is a class C felony in Oregon.

eek! Kelly, that's a sad case. I wonder if there's a difference legally between "allowing" sex (encouraging sleepovers and letting the door close with a wink) and having it occur when the parents were away or watching TV downstairs or at work? in any case, I'd think it would be folly to allow another teen behind closed doors with my teen without their parents' express consent -- especially as my children are all boys (and however the social norms are a-changing, it's still true that boys are seen as the aggressors, while girls are seen as those in need of protection).

I guess this explains my continued amazement at the quantity and, in some cases, quality (fancy colors and sparkles!) of used condoms i've seen in the edges of parking lots of apartment buildings and in the bike lanes. let me tell you: one thing about being car-free is I've learned there is a lot of sex going on out-of-doors, and not just on 82nd, either.

I'd be inclined to have the door open and one foot on the floor rule in our house. It's a hard line to draw. If your teen is going to have sex, they'll find a way to do it whether you "give" them the opportunity or not. I'd want to know so that I can make sure that they are being safe/using birth control and protecting themselves against STDs. On the other hand, I hope that they'll wait, and I wouldn't want to actively encourage it by condoning sleepovers. I also think both sets of parents need to be involved and aware. Sticky situations, these!

Mine are young still, so my thoughts are only hypothetical and/or based on my own experience. I know that as a teen I got involved in a very ugly relationship with someone and we had all kinds of alone time at my house and his house. And once I was in it, I didn't know how to get out of it. What I do know is if my parents had set the limits and had better supervision, he would not have wasted his time with me and I probably would have been better off. And, prior to that (middle school, maybe?) I had a female friend that I would have sleep overs with and there was experimenting going on. So, what's a mama to do!?

My cousin always had a policy in his family that once the kids hit high school, they spent every night at their own house. That looks better and better to me all the time. His kids are grown, successful, and they have always had good parent/child relationships. He might have been on to something.

My oldest is only 9, but he is so, not co-dependent, but he hates to sleep alone. We're not just talking about alone in a room, but he hates to sleep alone in his own bed. Pretty much every night he is cajoling one of his brothers into a "sleepover" even though he shares a room with one of them.

All that leading to the fact that I am scared to death of him going off to college. I just have images of him hooking up with the first person who is willing to have a sleepover and continuing that relationship just so he doesn't have to be alone. And if that person is a girl, which it probably will be, I am worried he'll get her pregnant before freshman year is over. (Although, to that end, safe sex and birth control have been part of our conversations for years now.)

Which is slightly different than the original query, but I think I'm gonna go with the prolonged sibling sharing of room attack (right? harder to be alone if you share a room...?) and the door open strategy.

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