Q. My son's friends have been having coed sleepovers. The other parents assure me it's harmless. I feel like the only prude in America. Should I let him go?
A. Times between girls and boys, they are a-changing. Once was it that boy-girl parties in late elementary school and early middle school caused raised eyebrows among the more prudish parents. Now with such parties extending into sleepovers, parents who're trying to protect their child's innocence are really being thrown for a parenting loop. One the one hand you don't want your son to miss out on a positive social situation but on the other hand you don't want him to be thrown into a situation that might send the wrong message about girl-boy relationships.
Let's consider the pros and cons:
The positive aspect of a coed sleepover would be that youngsters learn to conduct themselves appropriately around the opposite sex. The children might learn before full-fledged adolescence sets in that relations between boys and girls don't just involve dating and sexuality but camaraderie and positive social interactions. The children may establish ways to have fun together as a coed group rather than believing that one-on-one girl and boy dating and interaction is the only way to go. In the best case scenario, children will learn to handle themselves concerning issues of privacy when changing clothes and using the bathroom, managing their own bodies and respecting others. Parents might also hope an overnight event would lead to confidence in their children to move in and out of girl and boy relationships in student government, sports, clubs and class projects.
The negative aspect of such coed sleepovers is that the children would be thrown into a situation that will rob them of their childhood and throw them into a social situation that will be embarrassing, inappropriate, or beyond what their mind and emotions are able to manage. Additionally negative, the children may develop a too casual approach to girl-boy relationships, acquiring the belief that sleeping with the opposite sex is just what one does without commitment or sexual protection leading to early sexual promiscuity.
Whichever way you go, open up conversation on the topic with your son. If you allow your son to attend a coed sleepover, help him think and plan ahead for what might occur. Include information about his privacy and others'. Suggest appropriate topics of conversation, reasonable silliness, possible activities and expected physical distances between boys and girls. Also talk to the parents who are brave enough to host the coed sleepover. How many chaperones will there be? What activities will they provide? What are the sleeping and bathroom arrangements?
If you don't allow him to attend, explain that you feel he's too young for an overnight boy-girl event and brainstorm alternative boy-girl social activities that you deem more appropriate. Lastly, proceed confidently with the knowledge that you are not the only parent prude in America; gather the parents of your son's friends together, open up a discussion, offer the pro and cons. You'll certainly gain support for your decision and network with parents with like minds and goals for their children.