Tomorrow being Halloween we’re coming up on the largest dosage of Evangelical fear mongering of the entire year. The Super Bowl of fear mongering. Articles about Satanists working in candy factories cursing the candy. All sorts of weird things, like the yearly sleepover panic, the sleepovers – Quiverfull Hell House fear.
This year’s fear mongering is brought to you by Tim Challies of Challies.com. While we’ve barely mentioned Challies here he is beloved by the Quiverfull women of Ladies Against Feminism, who we used to cover frequently. Ladies Against Feminism‘s website is down now. His biggest jam, more famous bit, is his fear mongering over sleepovers. He finally found a book written by someone working in the psychology field that supports what he claims so he’s doubling down on his claims.
What is it that Quiverfull and other Evangelicals fear happening during a children’s sleepover? That someone will ‘break’ their child by molestation. Or perhaps expose the child to pornography, or Pokemon, or just simply curse words, candies and cartoons. That whole lack of control over every aspect of their children.
I find those fear mongering ideas sort of quaint because yet again because they never think of the real threats, ignoring them just to carry on over these. I’m reminded anew how people will ignore the most obvious threats.
Yesterday morning I walked Tamarindo Beach, like I do three or four times a week and got to view people ignoring the obvious threats for the perceived ones. North Americans, slathering themselves with sun block to tromp through the estuary to the sand bars, ignoring the posted in three languages signs. What do those signs say? “Beware – Crocodiles”
As I got near where the beach and estuary meet I could see a small crocodile, maybe three feet long, lurking in the shallows between the sand bar and the beach, cleverly lurking beneath a patch of drifted in sea vegetation. Head poking up just enough to see and breathe every now and then. I warned some of the tourists as I came back around, pointing out the croc only to hear huffed complaints about what type of public beach has crocodiles.
I find Challies and the books simplistic warnings the same thing, ignoring the obvious things you can do and the bigger threats you might encounter.
Here Challies admits he came to the decision not to allow sleepovers not based on any real evidence or figures:
Years later Challies finds that book and supports his ideas. It’s by Beth Robinson and the title is “Protecting Your Children From Predators”
I see someone is cashing in on the fears of parents. I have not read the book, so I cannot speak to all of it’s contents. Challies lists her five factors that influence possible abuse at sleepovers.
They completely ignore the most likely time that children are molested, at the hands of a pastor or someone at the church, to complain about sleepovers. Sleepovers none of them have ever thought to check for the possibility of registered sex offenders.Most, if not ALL of those things can easily be mitigated or dealt with quickly. Making your child avoid all social situations with others outside of your home only ends up warping your child, depriving them of the opportunity to learn to navigate with others who are different. I’m just going to spell out the rules I used with sleepovers with my kids, many straight out of social work guidelines. Just knowing your child and their friends well goes a long way!
- Check your local sex offenders data registry! Almost every state has it easily available online. If you see there are a pile of offenders right there in that area then it’s a no. If you know that the host has a brother convicted of sex crimes, or drugs. Cut your risks.
- Make sure your child is of an age where they might get social benefit from attending a sleep over. Clearly you’re not going to allow a pile of five year olds to do the same things a 12 or 13 year old might find enjoyable.
- Make sure you know the other family very well. Ask questions. Find out if there are firearms in the house. Who will be there. How many adults? The adult to child ratio. Laws on home daycare used to insist that no more than five children to one adult was safe, but it’s safer to assume that a sleepover with a handful of kids, say five or six, is safer than one with twenty. If you feel or sense that this is not a good situation, or tat the parents are lackadaisical towards the best interests of a kid just say no! Don’t just assume everyone else pays attention to what their children do.
- Host the sleepover. Know your child’s friends, know them well. Know their parents, know the kid’s likes, dislikes, and personality. Do not retreat to your bedroom to allow them to run wild! Have ground rules. Gently insert yourself occasionally in a nice way, i.e. ‘Who wants cocoa?’ and keep an eye and ear tuned to the sleepover. They are going to find it hard to look at R-rated movies if you’re in the next room.
- Explain the whys if you say no. Let your child know that you’ve said no because the circumstances aren’t safe, or you’re simply not comfortable with the circumstances. Offer alternatives, like a pizza party, or you hosting the sleepover, or another outing with the same friends. Safe outing on neutral grounds without the risks. Kids might grumble, but seem to accept alternatives well.
- Make sure your child is old enough, mature enough, and self confident enough to say no on their own. Expect there will sometimes be small harmless hijinks.
- Talk to your children after a sleepover. Find out if the parent was involved, or what happened. Do not assume everything went fine. Found this one out the hard way when it came out that my son didn’t want to go to sleepovers at a friends house because the boy wanted to do crazy things, like ride his skateboard down a major highway at 3 am while Daddy was sleeping. Trust that your child has an instilled sense of right and wrong.
I know I’ve likely missed a few here. What do you think works best in navigating your children’s needs for friendships and your desire to keep them safe. Happy Halloween!
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