Is it wrong for pre-teens to have sleepovers with friends of the opposite sex?

Chickenwing asks: When I was younger, I had a sleepover with my 3 best friends. I liked the idea of that, but now I have moved somewhere else. I asked to have a sleepover with my 3 best friends, but (I never thought of this!) my 3rd best friend is a girl! My mom will probably say no, but I don’t get what’s so wrong. We won’t do anything sexual because we’re all 10 years old. I have a bunk bed, a guest room, and a couch that turns into a bed. We could all sleep in different places. Please help – I really want the sleepover!

Hi Chickenwing –

My friend, you are dealing with something you’re going to face for the rest of your life – and especially in the next twelve years or so – called pre-judgment.  I won’t use the word “prejudice,” because that word has other connotations, but I mean the same thing.  I completely believe you that you, your two male friends, and your female friend, could have a really fun night together hanging out, and that you aren’t thinking about any hanky-panky in the least!

But that might not matter.

There really are three things going on here.  One is that, as you’re feeling, some parents might not trust you or some of the other kids.  That’s too bad, but it’s really hard to prove that one’s trustworthy (while it’s very easy to prove one’s not!  Think about that for a second and you’ll see what I mean!).  No matter how sweet a dog I am, no one’s going to let me have a sleepover with the neighbor’s cat – and they’re probably right!

Second, while you say that your age means you’ll all be safe, different kids develop at different times, both physically and emotionally.  Handsome had his first crush at age ten, and while he was way too nervous to ever do anything about it (he was too scared to even talk to the girl!), it still would have been… well, odd, for him to be spending the night with a girl after that.  No parent can, or will, possibly know when their kid starts developing different feelings.  So parents are bound to say “better safe than sorry.”

But then there’s a third issue.  And this one might be a bit tough for you, as a boy, to understand.  But there’s also a certain honor that the parents are bestowing onto that girl now.  Regardless of what you or any other boy feels toward her, adults might say that she is beginning to grow out of being a child, and that therefore she needs to start living a different way.

In the next few years, that friend of yours will go through the most profound change anyone ever does – she’s going to go from being a kid to being capable of having a kid!  This happens too fast for any girl’s comfort, and includes a mixture of embarrassment, excitement, and lots and lots of emotions.

This doesn’t mean you need to treat her any differently than you currently do.  She’s still your friend, and you can still be great to each other just as you are now.  But the changes going on in her (which are no more her fault than they are yours) might well lead her parents to say that she can’t do some of the same things she used to do.

I know it feels unfair.  And not just to you — I can promise, if most parents could keep their kids young, they would!  But try to understand – if the adults feel they need to start to separate you kids from each other, at least overnight, it’s not an insult to who you are today, nearly as much as it’s an honoring of your maturing into vibrant, exciting, and – yes – attractive teenagers very very soon!

(On the other hand, if you’re worrying too soon, and all the parents say it’s okay for the four of you to have this sleepover… have a total blast!  This might be the last time you get to do it!)





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