Dear Readers: I recently published a letter from "Not Comfortable," who is helping to raise her three granddaughters. She stated that coed sleepovers seem to be the norm for children in her town, and she wondered what reader consensus is on that topic. I was delighted to hear from people of all ages on all sides of the issue. Here's but a small sample.
Dear Annie: I am writing about "Not Comfortable." I am a 13-year-old boy in the eighth grade, and 90 percent of my friends are girls. I have two particular female friends with whom I am very close and have been friends for four years. We have sleepovers often. Sometimes we sleep at their house (they are sisters), and sometimes we sleep at mine. Their parents are fine with our sleepovers, and so are mine.
Two of the girls "Not Comfortable" wrote to you about are 11, and I think that at that age, they are still young enough that coed sleepovers are fine. I think boys and girls can be in the same room for a sleepover, and you can check on them if you would like. If you don't trust your child with coed sleepovers, you can put a monitor or another device in the room. -- Sleepover Connoisseur
Dear Sleepover Connoisseur: You seem like a thoughtful young man. The monitoring device is a novel solution, though I'm not sure it would suffice for the following folks.
Dear Annie: Most of the people I know tell me there's nothing wrong with having boys and girls sharing sleeping space unsupervised. Some add, "They're just kids. There's nothing to worry about." I disagree. Children do not have mature decision-making abilities or mature impulse control. Many have raging hormones that demand action. Allowing children to act on their impulses is a good way to create adults with poor impulse control. People don't suddenly become mature; they grow into it slowly. Most require plenty of adult guidance, and sometimes people need restrictions that prevent future problems. -- A.B.S.
Dear A.B.S.: I tend to agree with you. And we're not the only ones who feel this way.
Dear Annie: I don't think parents should put their kids in a situation where they might get themselves into trouble. We can't be everywhere as parents, but we can do our best to not "provide" situations that might cause unwanted results, e.g., teen pregnancies. Keep up the dialogue! -- Cheryl
Dear Cheryl: Thanks for writing. The dialogue continues.
Dear Annie: When my daughter had her first serious boyfriend, I started out worrying a lot about what they were doing together when they were alone. (I grew up with a "no boys, no dating" rule, and I definitely hid a lot from my parents.) When she asked whether she could start birth control, I had to admit to myself that she was already sexually active. I was really upset. But I supported her.
Since then, she has been open about everything and talked to me about things that I would never dream of saying to my mother (even now). Eventually, my daughter would sleep at her boyfriend's house, and then he started staying at our house, too. (They live 40 minutes of dark, moose-filled, no-cell-service driving apart.) Instead of sneaking around, they would hang out at home. I realized that I felt really good knowing that they were safe and not at some party. My daughter appreciated my listening to her and not just sticking to outdated social taboos. We are incredibly close, and that is a bond built on openness and trust. -- No Regrets
Dear No Regrets: While I'm not sure you'll convince many of my readers that coed sleepovers are OK (I'm still not sure I'm convinced myself), I do agree that trust and openness, rather than deceit and secrecy, are key to a healthy relationship with your teens. Thanks for writing.