I'm Uncomfortable Letting My Daughter Have Sleepovers at a Certain Friend's House

Filed under: Opinions

Dear AdviceMama,

I'm an old dad (late 50s). My 11-year-old daughter loves sleepovers, both at our house and her friends'. However, I have an issue with the mother of one of her friends. She is very sweet and a member of our church, but I question her maturity level. She shows off her tattoos and piercings to the kids (of course, they think she is cool), has two children by different dads, both out of the picture, and a new boyfriend.

If the girls are studying, she will take them out for McDonald's (half an hour before dinner). She offered to take my daughter to get a pet bunny without asking us because she was getting her daughter one. Her daughter is an honor student, polite, articulate, creative and a pleasure. It's the mom I question.

How do I tell my daughter I am not comfortable with her sleeping over at this woman's house when she is allowed to go to her other friends' houses for sleepovers? How do I teach her not to be judgmental when I am?


Worried Dad

Dear Worried,

I appreciate the honesty in the last line of your question. It's hard to justify lecturing our kids about not judging others when, in fact, we do judge people -- especially those we entrust with the care of our children.

A parent having tattoos or piercings doesn't necessarily tell you that your daughter would be unsafe at her friend's home. Many children suffer all kinds of harm at the hand of untattooed, unpierced parents! The problem with your situation is that there are not one, not two, but quite a few indicators that could suggest your daughter's friend's mother isn't as responsible as you might hope a parent to be who is taking charge of your child.

But she has raised what sounds like a lovely daughter, and that may mean that despite her somewhat erratic personal life, she takes parenting very seriously. Then again, there are many highly responsible kids whose parents are very unstable; these children often end up "parenting" their parents, maintaining control and steadiness in fairly chaotic households.

I don't think you should judge this mother as a person, but I do believe it's fair to explain to your daughter that you take your job as a parent seriously, have concerns about letting her spend the night with her friend and don't feel confident that her mother shares your values and sensibilities.

Tell your daughter you are open to learning more about her friend's family by spending time together. Invite your daughter's friend and mother for dinner so you can find out who she is, beyond the tattoos, the bunny or the boyfriend. Try to get a sense of whether her daughter has a regular bedtime. Are family meals important? What does she say about drugs and alcohol? Does her boyfriend spend the night?

Be open to the possibility that this woman may turn out to be a responsible and conscientious parent. If, however, your time with her leaves you convinced your daughter shouldn't spend the night at her home, emphasize that while this mom may be cool, fun and interesting, you've decided that -- for now -- she can't have sleepovers there. Allow her to be mad, sad or tell you "It's not fair" and listen until she's had a chance to vent.

This situation isn't about being judgmental; it's about keeping your eyes open and recognizing that being a parent means trusting your instincts and acting on them, even if it makes your kids angry with you.

Yours in parenting support,

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.