Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hey, Can I Have A Sleepover.....With My Boyfriend...In My Bed?

I received the following question from a blog follower:

What is your take on teens who are dating and one parent allows the boyfriend to sleep over in the same bed as the girlfriend? They have been dating for about 6 months and the girl just turned 18 about one month ago and is on birth control. The teens already say they are going to end their relationship over the summer before they go off to college.

I know, some of you of saying it's fine, they're 18, they're having sex anyway. What's the big deal. And others of you might be saying, that's crazy, they are in high school, this is my house, this is not a permanent relationship, I have other children in the home, absolutely not!!!!

Every family has different ideas about right and wrong, and what standards they expect their children to follow, so I'm not going to come down on either side. But I will address issues that should be part of any discussion with your teens about couple sleepovers.

First, no parent has the right to make decisions for any child that is not theirs. I have met with many parents whose teen has a boy/girlfriend, and where rules are different about supervision at each teen's home. If your teen is in a relationship, you have a right to voice your concern if you feel another parent is not providing your teen with the kind of supervision and safety that is important to you. In this situation, who knows whether the boy's parents know that these kids are spending the night canoodling together. Maybe the boys' parents think he is sleeping in the guest room. It is every parents right to have their input about these kinds of decisions. So there's that.

These kids are already most definitely having sex. That's their business. However, they have already decided that come the fall, they are off to separate colleges and break-up is inevitable. Allowing them to forge a very strong attachment when a difficult separation is ahead of them seems unwise. Going off to college is hard enough. Leaving a hometown relationship makes it even harder. The intimacy and closeness that is developed through overnights will make it excruciating. But these teens don't know that yet. All they know is that they want to spend as much time as they can with each other before they go their separate ways. Being boyfriend and girlfriend, and having regular sex is very different than going to bed spooning with your beloved and waking up in your lovers arms. This is a whole other level of emotional closeness. There is a difference between sneaking a special weekend away without your parents knowledge once or twice, (it does happen..really) and being regular bed mates. As adults, it is our job sometimes to anticipate the consequences that our children who don't have the life experience we have, can't. Teens see things in black and white. They will say things like: " we're having sex anyway, what's the difference if we have sleep overs together." The difference is, it is reinforcing a deeper connection between these two kids at a time and stage in their life where permanence or "long-term" is not a part of the equation.

Next, if you have other children in your home, especially younger children, these overnights in high school should be a no no. Seeing their sibling in a sexual in your face way can be upsetting and disturbing to younger children who don't have an understanding yet of sex, intimacy, and relationships. This is not a model you want your younger kids to aspire too.

And finally, how about your feelings? If you have no ambivalence about this issue,  and it's a NO, You're good. You feel clear when and if your teen engages you in this conversation. For those of you who have some ambivalence, take into account your own feelings. Would it make you feel uncomfortable having your teenage son or daughter in bed together in the next room? If it does, than pay attention to that gut feeling and say no. For those of you who feel OK about this, please really give your decision deep thought, and ask the question whether there is any possible long term negative emotional consequence of allowing this couple to spend the night. Your teens may be impulsive and act with passion, they need you for a bit longer to do the thinking through with them.

Once your kids leave for college, the game changes! Get ready!

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