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Would You Let Your Teen's Boyfriend/Girlfriend Sleep Over?

This past week, I posted an article on my facebook page about some mothers in the UK that have decided to allow their teenage daughters' boyfriends sleep over. Is that shocking? I didn't think so. I found it progressive and refreshing. But not everyone agrees and some find the idea of it irresponsible or morally reprehensible.

I respect the fact that different people have different opinions about sex, ranging from "whoever, whenever, wherever" all the way to "put a ring on her before you sleep with her". I also respect parents wishing to share their values with their children. However, I don't think that forbidding something from happening in your home is the best way to ensure that your teen adopts your values. I think a loving, mutually respectful, open and connected relationship is the best way to do that.

Here are a few things that I know about teens and sex, from first or second hand experience:

  • Teens who decide that they are ready to have sex are going to have sex, whether you allow it in your home or not (they'll find somewhere else to do it and that may not be a safe place or with a safe person)

  • Teens who are not ready to have sex, will not have sex, just because you allow it in your home

  • Teens who give into pressure to have sex when they are not ready are going to do that whether you allow it in your home or not

  • If teens of the opposite sex have a sleepover, that doesn't necessarily mean they are having sex

  • If teens of the same sex have a sleepover, that doesn't necessarily mean they are not having sex

I reject the idea that "teens are going to have sex anyway, so you might as well allow it in your home", because I don't think that is entirely true. Some teens do opt not to have sex. That said, I also reject the idea that allowing your teen to have opposite sex sleepovers is encouraging them to enter into sexual relationships before they are ready.

These aren't just my crazy ideas. In the book Not Under My Roof, Amy Shalet looks at parents, teens and the culture of sex in the United States and the Netherlands.

For American parents, teenage sex is something to be feared and forbidden: most would never consider allowing their children to have sex at home, and sex is a frequent source of family conflict. In the Netherlands, where teenage pregnancies are far less frequent than in the United States, parents aim above all for family cohesiveness, often permitting young couples to sleep together and providing them with contraceptives.

I haven't read the book yet, but it certainly fits with both my experience and my worldview on parenting and sex.

If you don't want your children to have sex before they are ready and don't want them to practice unsafe sex, I think the best way to do that is:

  • Instill self-confidence and a sense of self-worth in your children

  • Teach them to respect themselves and to respect others (that means teaching them to say 'no' when they want to say 'no' and teaching them to hear and respect 'no')

  • Teach them about safe sex and be open to answering their questions

  • Share your opinions about sex with them, but be sure to tell them that they are free to form their own opinions and make their own decisions

  • Tell them that they can come to you with any questions that they have, but also make sure there are other people they can go to with questions if they are not comfortable talking to you (doctor, older sister/brother, aunt/uncle, school guidance counselor, anonymous teen help phone, etc.)

  • Ensure they have an easy way to get condoms and other forms of birth control if they decide that they need it

Then, after you have done that, trust your child. There really isn't a huge difference between 16 years old and under the shackles of the parental roof versus 18 years old and in a college dorm. If you haven't given them the skills to make good decisions by the time they are 16, then you probably have bigger things to worry about than just this issue.

I hope that if I teach my kids well, that they will make good decisions. But if they don't and if one of them does end up with a revolving door of lovers coming in and out of our house, at least I may know about it and have an opportunity to talk to them about it. The parents who make sex sound dirty and forbid sex at home -- they may (unknowingly) have the same problem, without the opportunity for dialogue.

Photo credit: michi003 on flickr

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Reader Comments (184)

Bravo Annie! Another very well written post! I was a virgin when I got married at 21 years old and I will teach my children the same values. My mom had me as an unwed 20 year old and raised me as a baby on her own. I grew up hearing the stories of how hard it was - she made sure to make me scared of teen pregnancy LOL - and she also taught me to cherish the dream of having sex for the first time as a bride on my wedding night. That is where I am coming from. Those are my values.

That being said, I totally agree with this sentence you wrote: "There really isn’t a huge difference between 16 years old and under the shackles of the parental roof versus 18 years old and in a college dorm. " It is so true!! As parents we need to make sure we raise our kids with our values and also trust them to make good decisions. It is extremely difficult to find that balance between giving a nearly young adult freedom and protecting them from harm while you still can.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

I agree. I view sex as a normal biological activity. Most people have sex for the first time between the onset of puberty and age 20 or so. Denying this reality doesn't change it. I understand that my daughter will probably have sex for the first time during her teenage years. I would like her to be emotionally and physically ready for it. This means ensuring she has safe people to talk to, access to birth control and contraception (including Plan B and abortion), and safe space to explore her sexuality.

Perhaps I'm more aware because I have a daughter and not a son, but I hate the phrases/words "lose your virginity," "deflower," "purity," etc. All of these tie a woman's worth up in her lack of sexual activity. Sex is a biological activity (just because there is a psychological component doesn't change this). A person, especially a woman, is not worth more because she hasn't had sex or has had few sexual partners. Unfortunately this is a pervasive idea within the US (see controversy over woman volunteering in a school who used to work in porn, victim blaming when women are raped who are sex workers or have many partners, the concern over having "too many" sexual partners).

There are many activities the parents allow their children. All have risks. Singling sex out is absurd, especially since modern reproductive health care and using safe practices makes those risks very small.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

I am so grateful by this post, and for your point of view. It's exactly where I'm at too as a Mama, but couldn't quite find the right words to express my feelings. My husband and I were "forbidden" to have sex while we were dating, as a matter of fact, we were forbidden to date, having been deemed too young to marry, as a matter of fact. Long story short - we had sex. Forbidding us did nothing except drive a wedge between us and our families, putting us in the position of having to choose between our families and our faith, or each other. We were also given "not under my roof" speeches, and that also had no degree of success either. Teenagers (or young adults) living under the roof of a parents or grandparents who forbid healthy sexual expression are not less likely to have sex - they're just going to do it elsewhere or on the sly - and neither situation will likely turn out well. I don't intend to encourage my son to have girls over, or condone sex outside of a committed, healthy and mature relationship, BUT neither will I tell him where he can or cannot be with his partner WHEN HE IS READY, and I fully intend to be open and frank with him about our past and about sex in general. I was raised to be ashamed of sex, of myself and of my body. I will not pass that on to my children if I can help it. Sex, birth, child rearing even, should be celebrated for the beautiful expressions of life that they are - not hidden in a corner of our lives in shame.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSkye

All the rest of this aside, I do think there is a big difference in 16 and 18. I say that for several reasons. Some are from personal experience. First, from having raised my own children into their mid to late twenties. There are big differences, not only between 16 and 18, but between 18 and 20, 20 and 22, etc.

Second, I returned to college in my 40s. From that vantage point I was able to observe the difference in my classmates of various ages. The college I attended had a program where students, ranging in age from 16-18, could live on campus and take their last two years of high school simultaneously with their first two years of college.

These students, arguably, are likely to be more mature than the average teenager their age. They have had to meet a stringent criteria to get in and are now living in a dorm setting, rather than at home with their parents.

I took classes with a number of these students, and in my observation, they were, quite obviously, significantly less mature than their older classmates. Using the subject of sex as an example, when an English professor would discuss sexual symbolism in various literature, they tended to giggle uncontrollably. I never saw an older student do that.

Further, there have been scientific studies done in recent years that show just how different the teenage brain physically is from the adult brain. I don't know specifically, what brain changes are seen in that two year span, but I suspect it would be significant.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterladykay

I am hoping to have a progressive home and raise my daughter to be open and aware, but I do not think I will allow someone elses child into my home to possibly infect or abuse my daughter....He could certainly be a great guy, or he could not be....He could be a bad guy who could change my daughter by hurting her in many different ways.....Sex is sex, but another human being being raised by some one you do not know could potentially be harmful.......Even if I know the other childs mother or father....the other child could be not so good at heart......I will just raise my child to focus on herself and her future and her education and wants, needs, likes, and dislikes before jumping in the bed with some body who could hit her, impregnat her, or give her an STD :S

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I think that not knowing how the other child was raised is another reason I'd rather let them sleep over than have my daughter hooking up with them in the back of their car somewhere.

I do agree with your last point re: raising my child to focus on her own needs/future, but don't think I have to forbid sleepovers in order to achieve that.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

While everything you said makes complete sense, I can't accept the idea that teenagers are ready for relationships at all. I was that age, not all that long ago, and everything is purely hormone based. Kids preparing for college don't need (or truly understand) the complications of relationships. I do see a huge difference between 16 and 18 and well, it's difference in me spending 2 years raising a grandchild in my home and my daughter/son raising that child on their own. I'm not willing to be responsible for a teenager's hormone induced consequence, I walked that road and don't care to revisit it.

I'm secretly hoping that I'll be able to keep my kids busy enough with after-school jobs, homework and any extracurricular activities I can find to keep them from having time to date. <-- it's a nice dream :)

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCat Davis

I think it depends a lot on the individual. Some people are very mature at 13, others are still giggling about sex at 30.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I agree with your post. Though my daughter is still a toddler--so I haven't had to face these decisions yet--I hope that I will instill values and self-respect in her throughout her life so that I can trust her to make good decisions as she matures.

Also, I grew up in a home without many boundaries and I had many co-ed sleepovers throughout junior high and high school. Some of these were boys I was dating (but not sleeping with) and some were boys who were strictly friends.

And I know from my own experiences and those of my friends that once we became sexually active, we didn't need a sleepover to have sex.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBalancingJane

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January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWould You Let Your Teen's

This is such a tricky area, and I think it might vary from child to child too - as one of the posts said, children all mature at different ages. I've always vowed to have an open home for my children and their friends as I didn't feel things were that way when I grew up with my parents - no one was allowed to stay over ever, no matter what age or sex they were. I've tried to be open and honest about sex and relationships and leave space for my children to make their own decisions about things, while also trying to ensure I teach them to respect themselves and always feel able to say no. When I felt my eldst son was getting to the stage where he was considering having sex, I got him condoms from the family planning clinic and made sure he knew where the clinic was so he could get more in the future. I also told him, if he didn't feel comfortable getting condoms, then perhaps he should reconsider his decision to have sex :-) I did respect his privacy though and didn't insist that he had to talk to me about it. It can be scary watching your "child" take their first steps towards sexual maturity, but also when you see them interacting with another person in such a mature way, it makes you proud :-)

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNZDee


I remember sneaking around when I was a teen. It certainly wasn't ideal. My parents were adamant that my boyfriend not *set foot* in my bedroom -- for any reason, day or night. So we weren't even allowed to hang out in my room and say, listen to music. Any time my boyfriend was over we only spent time in the common areas of my house. This did not stop me from having sex with him -- in the strangest of places, no less, where there was often the chance of us being "caught" by some random stranger.

It's really hard to say what I'll do when my kids are having sex (they are 10, 7, 6 and 4) but I really hope that I'm able to have an open, comfortable and trusting relationship with them but I know one thing for sure: I do NOT like the idea of my kids having sex in odd places.


January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFamilyNature

I actually had this conversation over the holidays. I hope my kids and I will have an open relationship when they're teenagers. I'll teach them that their bodies are theirs to use as they see fit, but also that sex is genuinely better when you value the person you're having it with (and vice versa). And there will be a box of condoms in the bathroom that will get refilled without question or judgment. So I don't think I'll be creating the kind of environment where my kids run off doing dangerous things.

Having said that, I don't think partners will be staying over in the teenage years. Relationships, sex aside, can be difficult to navigate and it's easy to get lost in them. I saw it happen to a lot of my own friends. They were so eager to please their first boyfriend that before they knew it they were in an unhealthy, controlling, even abusive relationship.

Boyfriends/girlfriends you have at that age are usually from your school, so you usually see them most of the day already and they live relatively close by. You're welcome to see them on the weekends too, even in our home, and you can have privacy in your bedroom, but then they'll go home for the night and we'll have time to ourselves as a family. It's important to me to teach that balance and to enforce it to a certain extent so that they have time to ease into the dating world.

To me, it's the same concept as telling them that they have to put some money from their first partime job into a savings account. By setting that boundary for them they'll have some time to adjust to having the money (or relationship) before they're turned loose to navigate it entirely by themselves.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKrissyFair

If my kids don't date anyone in high school, I will not be relieved, I will be worried about them being social misfits. I find your attitude incomprehensible.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

I really applaud this post. I remember being told years ago, patronisingly, that I'd reconsider my liberal views on teen sexuality when I became a father of a teenage girl (the patriarchal sexism inherent in this very common viewpoint is so very blatant, isn't it?). At this point I'm the father of a girl who will soon turn nine (plus one about to turn two, for that matter), and I haven't changed my viewpoint one bit. I guess we'll see: maybe in four years I'll suddenly turn into a typical patriarchal dad...but I really hope not.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

I have thirteen-year-old and nine-year-old daughters. I think there is a big difference between how boys view sex and girls view sex. And these differences are just part gender differences (some of these brain differences are noted in "Nurture the Nature". I would be very concerned if my girls entered into a sexual relationship in their teens - I definitely don't think that they would be ready for potential negative consequences like pregnancy, std's or a boy calling it quits after a week of fooling around. So I really hope that they won't want to enter into that type of relationship that early. The mom's in the Mother/Daughter groups I belong to feel the same way - we want our girls to focus on building themselves and their skills, not being side-tracked by relationships. I also agree that their is a HUGE difference between 16 and 18 and other ages - along with individual differences.

I didn't have "boy-friends" in high school and I am not a social misfit - I met my husband in college and we have been together for 24 years. I have always had male and female friends, so truly that comment from SlackrInc stems from fear rather than any kind of truth. Relationships with both genders are important - not dating. What is the point of dating, except for to find a potential mate? If the girl is really ready for that, I guess that's fine (although I personally wouldn't be happy with the choice.) I don't know if a lot of girls really are, despite all the cultural encouragement.

Encouraging friends of both genders is great. I am not sure about the sleep over part. I have to think about that more and discuss that with my husband and get back to you on that part. Because that's a family decision and would really depend on the situation at hand. I am definitely for any friends and/or serious partners being part of the family no matter what the age. For college I would definitely let a boyfriend sleep over. For high school age - I am not so sure. Oh, my husband just walked in and said if they are older, sure in separate rooms! Wouldn't make it a habit. He agreed it would be situational.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @ The Sacred Mother

Susan, I've never met anyone IRL who didn't have non-platonic relationships of some kind before college, and who was happy about it. Most people I know did have such relationships in high school; but I do know some who did not and it was not by their choice and is a painful memory to them.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

I totally could have written this post! My mom and stepdad decided that my boyfriend was not allowed in my room for any reason. Ever. Not to listen to music. Not to pick out a movie. Certainly not to kiss! And you know what? We spent as little time at my house as possible, because I felt like we were under surveillance all of the time. (We were having sex, but most of the time we were at his house, we just sat around and listened to music or watched movies while cuddling). Their attitude didn't stop us from having sex (in odd places, too), but it did make me really uncomfortable whenever I was at home.

Meanwhile, my sister was having sex with her girlfriend in her room, and they knew nothing about it. I guess it didn't occur to them. Or they were just worried about pregnancy.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCate

My mom has always been fond of telling me that I'll change my views on teen sex once my daughter gets a little older (at which point I'm supposed to want to lock her in a tower, I guess?) My husband has been told the same thing.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCate

Maybe you just need to broaden your acquaintance base... I know many people who never dated or had sex until college and are well adjusted and happy about their decisions.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleslie

I agree with just about everything you said. I was sexually active young (15) and although I'm sure my parents knew (they had to) it was never talked about. I was also never really given "the talk" and I wasn't even really sure of the mechanics of things before I started dating the boy I would eventually have sex with. It was a situation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that I hope to avoid with my children. My parents were conflicted with moral values and knowing their own pasts, so I went uninformed. I plan to inform my son, giving him information and options, but also telling him that I hope that he waits, that I regret having sex so young.

Another aspect you didn't mention that I think links to this, is the American way of morally rebuffing us into "no sex before marriage." You know, those good old fashion Southern Baptist morals (that I grew up with, and don't believe too far from, but hey, I'm a realist). There is nothing wrong for a teen to strive for that, if it's their personal belief, but my beef comes in when one marries for the first time at 19 so that they can have sex. And then, when divorced at 20 it all seems like such a waste. I don't say this in a condescending way, I see it happen frequently. I saw it happen among my peers, and in my small community still. Definitely a soapbox issue for me, but I'll stop there.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnonReader

I think that the "They are going to do it wherever they are" thing is flawed, whether it comes to sex or drugs. Kids need boundaries and rules and even if they do sneak around, home should be safe. So letting any old dude sleep over or allowing your teen to smoke and drink at home is a no go. No matter how much they protest, teenagers really do want to feel protected and like they have that one place as a safe haven from pressures.

That said, a longterm boyfriend or girlfriend is another story, as the people we date seriously become our family. I was allowed to have my serious boyfriend spend the night - He even lived with us for awhile, in my room, when his home situation was less than great. Obviously my mother knew we were having sex and it wasn't a big deal so long as he was respectful and followed the house rules, same as any of my friends. I actually think it's brilliant for parents to allow boyfriends to hang around. It becomes pretty apparent to everyone that it's a bad fit if the person you are dating doesn't mesh with your family, and I think that the 'wrong' guy is going to be reluctant to sleep over anyway. It is the guy or girl you sneak off to see, not the one you want to introduce to your parents, who is likely to be a problem!

I was a little confused by your statement, "I've never met anyone IRL who didn’t have non-platonic relationships of some kind before college, and who was happy about it." because of the double negative (no criticism - just want to make sure I understand you!) I think you meant that you didn't know anyone who wasn't having sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend who was happy about the situation. Is that right? That they would have been happier having sex like some of their peers and they greatly regret that situation?

I guess that makes me wonder about these people. Was it because they weren't actually have sex or because it was a status thing and therefore they felt left out. I don't understand what feels painful to them in that situation because one can have deep and satisfying relationships without sex; that statement intrigues me. It seems like it's about a lot more than engaging or not engaging in a sexual relationship. Perhaps what they were really missing out on was a feeling of deep connection with others in their life. Sex is really about connecting on a very deep and intimate level. But I really don't know if teenage boys really would get that. Also, I am wondering since you are guy that maybe it is your male friends who have painful memories of feeling left out of the "fun"? Just wondering. Interesting discussion.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @ The Sacred Mother

I had many non-platonic relationships as a teenager that didn't involve sex. There was certainly intimacy, but not necessarily sex.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I disagree. I think kids need to be taught and guided to make good decisions. I don't think that strict boundaries and rules provide anything more than an arbitrary obstacle for them to overcome.

I hope that my home will be a safe place where my teens feel like they can ask questions and try things without pressure and uncertainty. We also plan to let our kids drink alcohol at home, so that we can teach them responsible alcohol consumption.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Fantastic post - so well articulated!

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterblue milk

That was actually my point - which was that maybe intimacy was missing and they were recognizing or feeling that absence as a need for "sex". I think it's pretty common for teens who don't have strong relationships with their families to engage more often in sexual activity (at least that's what I understand from the literature that I have read.) And certainly I agree that sex is not necessary for intimacy - I am simply recognizing that it is one of the deepest forms of intimacy and therefore should be respected as an important and significant interaction.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @ The Sacred Mother

I agree that kids to need some boundaries and rules - Annie - you're not there yet; my oldest is almost 14 and believe me they are going to push and test. That doesn't mean being strict and I don't even think Janine was suggesting strict boundaries. By setting up values and rules one does set up a safe space for a teen. That doesn't mean go overboard, though.

Teaching a teen safe alcohol consumption with a meal is a good idea. Would you let your teen just crack open a beer and drink and have a cigarette any old afternoon whenever they feel like it? I doubt it - because there are boundaries that you would probably set. Although, I don't know. Maybe you would feel comfortable with that scenario. Personally, smoking would absolutely not be tolerated in my home and my girls know that I view smoking and heavy drinking as not healthy for one's body. That is a value that we choose to set.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @ The Sacred Mother

Sure, I would set some boundaries, but the boundaries I would set for my teens would probably be similar to those I would set for any family member/house guest.

I expect people in my home to be respectful of others, so that means no smoking in the house, no violent behaviour, no excess noise, etc.

I do think some age appropriate boundaries are useful too. For example, we kept all junk food and sweets away from our kids as babies and we still limit them now. However, once they are at an age where they can go and buy their own sweets as soon as they are out of our sight, boundaries like that have less relevance. By then, if I haven't taught them to self-regulate and seek balance, setting boundaries in my house won't make a difference.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I didn't date at all in high school. I really wasn't ready, and my dating choices were limited. I suppose I was a social misfit, but is that always a horrible thing?

By the way, I'm happily married now.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura--The Sushi Snob

I'm talking about both male and female friends who didn't get their "first kiss" (and beyond) until after high school. It wasn't by their choice, and it isn't a happy memory.

Also, you're wrong to think that teenage boys are incapable of connecting to their significant others "on a deep and intimate level". I did (I fooled arounnd with a number of girls in high school, but I only had intercourse with two serious girlfriends with whom I was seriously involved at the time), and so did other friends of mine. Personally, if anything I had it more romanticised in my high school years than I did later. There were times I would stop something from going beyond "second base" because I didn't feel I truly "loved" the girl I was with; whereas by my sophomore year of college I saw that as unnecessarily restrictive (and regretted those missed opportunities in retrospect, LOL).

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

I really agree with you about these other issues too. Alcohol was not forbidden fruit for me as a teen, although drinking and driving was, and I think as a result I approached it better than many of my peers (who would jump in the car and race home from a party to make curfew, whereas I was encouraged to call home and say that I needed to sober up before driving).

However, I've read in recent years about how the progressive parents, who would rather their teens and their friends drink safely at home instead of driving out to a bonfire in a field somewhere, have gotten in trouble with other parents, and thus the law, for providing alcohol to others' kids. How do you intend to navigate this part of it? I personally would love to live in some intentional community with other parents who shared these progressive values, but I don't see it happening.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

Glad to hear it!

I think being a high school "misfit" can often mean something positive about a person on an individual level. But I also think it's unhappy for them. I was a big old nerd until about halfway through my sophomore year when I "blossomed" thanks to a new style and through becoming physically fit, etc. I was a lot happier the rest of the way.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

I totally agree with you that our job is to help our kids grow up to think for themselves and to be able to control their own behavior and responses (I think that's what you mean by self-regulate). That happens over time. For some of us we are still learning that as adults! When we have good relationships with our children that are filled with respect and trust, that is a good base for them to grow from and as a parents we know we can trust them because we know them well and they do have balance from their upbringing and they can bring that forth into the world. So I agree with you there.

And I agree that boundaries should not be arbitrary. But teens do seek boundaries. My daughter right now sometimes seeks things to "rebel" against as she determines her own thoughts and ideas and finds out who she is. And she tests whether we will follow through as parents. I'll definitely be interested to know what you think when your kids are in that age range because it is really different.

I believe that there needs to be both reasonable boundaries and an open trusting relationship together. My husband and I talk about the kids he knew growing up whose parents were the "cool" parents who let kids smoke and drink in their homes and let parties happen without supervision - and those folks turned out pretty messed up. So there has to be a happy medium somewhere.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @ The Sacred Mother

Yes - if children have been brought up to respect themselves (and others), then often those boundaries becomes less necessary as they grow into young adults, as it is the way they have learnt to live anyway... that is my experience anyway. My eldest son is 18 now.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNZDee

Great post. I remember my teenage years like it was yesterday (I'm only 25) and I remember my mom did not let my boyfriend (now husband BTW) in my room, or allowed us to go to the movies, or allowed me to go to his house. We had sex anyway, with my mom in the house, outside, in his car, at school... We were mature enough to be in a loving relationship, so much so that we married at 18 and are still married and raising our almost 2 year old today. I want to be truthful, realistic, and open about sex with my kids but honestly i'm not so sure about the sleeping over part. I just think especially for kids in school they need to have some sort of break at least for homework and sleep I mean if iI had no boundaries as a teenager my romance (and hormones!) would have consumed every minute of my life!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYvonne

I liked what Yvonne said! I see what those who are open to it are saying but I just don't think I could do it. But I wasn't sure why and maybe it is just the boundaries thing - I think parents help with boundaries by having some rules and expectations as long as kids are still kids.
My neighbor's teen daughter was having sex with her boyfriend and asked if he could stay over and her father said, "I just don't want to see Ian while I'm eating my breakfast."

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenya @oneunionmom

Wow, I´m really surprised that this is such a big issue in the US. Thinking hart, while reading through all posts, I can not recall anyone around here, who forbid a sleepover without having some really big personal problems (totally unagreeable guy etc.) with the boyfriend.
Ingrid from Germany

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteringrid

Ingrid, that squares with the tolerant attitude in your neighbour Germany. The U.S. still suffers from its Puritan heritage: it is, of all advanced industrialised nations, the one with the highest religiosity. Hard to take for an atheist like myself.

I always roll my eyes at the Republican candidates who warn that Obama wants to make the U.S. more like Europe. I'm like "I sure hope so--that would be great!"

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

Ugh, I meant to say "in your neighbour The Netherlands" (as described in the OP). Oops!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSlackerInc

Great post! I remember having sex in my husband's parent's basement after family meals while he still lived at home when we were dating! And they thought since they forbade it it wasn't happening! Ha! Then when we announced we were moving in together his darling mum said she was worried I would get pregnant so we said we couldn't possibly be doing it more than we were already! Lol

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

I am writing this as the mother of a 16 year old girl, who has her boyfriend sleeping upstairs with her at this moment.

He lives 100 miles away and they can only see each other if he stays over. It is the third time he has stayed and so far they have decided they are not ready to have sex, so have just cuddled. They are both virgins. My daughter has made preparations for when they do decide to go ahead, she has visited the family planning clinic and has got herself on the pill and also has condoms, but they are not in any hurry, neither is completely sure they are ready yet. Because we have a very close and loving relationship, I have been privileged to share her thoughts on this process.

I have also discussed the sleeping arrangements with her boyfriend's mother who has a similar relationship with her son. We both decided that they were competent to make this decision themselves and that it was their business not ours.

It works for us.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMotherhen


That fits with my experience in Germany too.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I will make the rules for my kids, but not for anyone else's kids. I don't intend to be a source of alcohol for underage kids that are not my own. I think that will be the biggest challenge of all to navigate, i.e. dealing with relationships between my kids and the kids of parents who aren't as progressive on these issues. Perhaps we'll have to move back to Europe before they are teens. :)

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well, you sound like a great guy. Of course not guys are that way. That's a generalization.

I didn't kiss a guy until college and that's a great memory for me! I l never felt sad in high school. But I went to a Catholic school and my group wasn't fooling around either so it wasn't an issue. So I think missing out on a kissing and fooling around as forming seriously bad potential memories for kids is a major generalization. I'll just go back to saying it all depends on the situation at hand. Life can have so many variable experiences.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan @ The Sacred Mother

I take issue with the implication in your last sentence that the only option other than sexual libertinism is to make sex "sound dirty". My husband and I are going to strive to teach our children that sex is only for marriage not because it is "dirty" but because it is so incredibly beautiful and beautiful and sacred. That it is a gift from God to bond spouses together in a special way. My parents never "forbade" teenage sex...but they (and the Bible) made it clear that sex outside of marriage wasn't God's plan. There were never any threats or anything, and I know that my parents wouldn't have kicked me out or anything even if I had been sleeping with every guy in school. But because of my faith, I believed, and still believe, that it is worth waiting until marriage. (Throughout the years my parents actually took in several girls who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock and didn't have supportive families and fed, clothed, housed, etc these ladies and their children).
My husband didn't have any girlfriends in high school (although he did have one before me in college) and we were both virgins on our wedding night. And quite happy about it.
I can tell some of your commenters don't know very many conservative Catholics, evangelicals, and Mormons, but I can assure you all the ones I've ever known(which is a LOT of them) are very happy about their decisions to remain virgins and even for some, unkissed, until marriage(as a Catholic I don't believe there it is morally superior to abstain from kissing prior to marriage, but I respect the right of others to choose to do so). I've never heard anyone regret saving themselves for marriage!

Anyway, I know you and many of your readers don't have a religious basis for believing one way or another on sexual issues, so I applaud you for discussing and thinking about the issues. I'm sure glad I don't have to try to figure it all out for myself without relying on religious teaching and tradition of centuries of religious thinkers. I'm sure if I did I would come up with pretty lousy solutions! It's clear, despite the differences in our beliefs, that you care immensly for your children and strive in all things to do what's best for them, and that is awesome.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrunchy Con Mommy

Sorry, I probably should have said "make premarital sex sound dirty", but even then it wasn't intended as a generalization. It was more of a poke at some of the comments on my facebook page when I originally posted this article. Ones like this:

I have a moral belief that sex is meant in marriage and not to be cheapened by casual sex. In order to live up to that belief that means I do not condone something like that in my home. I would be appalled at the lack of morals that someone else does.

I can't comment anymore, the lack of intelligence is stifling and lack of morals disgusting.

Are these parents nuts? Isn't this the same as child abuse? What can these people be thinking?

lol.. oh hell no. I don't need to make my home a hotel in order to "prove" I feel comfortable talking about sex to my child. Just because its now fashionable to look down at morals and give young women AND men a green light to follow their carnal urges does not mean its happening in my house or approved of my children.

The boyfriend would sleep with the fishes.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My children are not yet teens (we have about 10 years before we have to worry about this!), but I believe that open, honest communication is best and also it comes down to respect. For example, guests need to behave with a code of honor while in the house--no staying for a week, no violence, no drinking underage, no smoking in the house, etc. I believe it's also important to provide your teen with information about safe sex and contraceptives. That doesn't mean I'm just going to put a giant bowl of condoms in the hallway, though!!

My parents were fairly conservative religiously and did not approve of sleepovers. My brother was the only one of us to have "sleepovers" at his girlfriends house and my parents didn't like that very much but respected his choice to make his own decisions (while voicing their disapproval in other ways). Me, I just snuck boys into the house and then shooed them out the window.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhoebe

These posts really have me thinking. Even though my boys are 3, 5, and in utero I know that I'll have three teenage boys living under my roof one day and I need to prepare for that now. I talk openly about our bodies and their functions and also about girls and how they are the same/different (eg, physical differences,'same capabilities). I will allow girls to sleep over as long as its done by abiding our house rules and respecting the values of everyone (including the girls family)

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Great post, and I agree with you completely. in terms of helping them to make the decision when they're ready for it, and not be pressured into it, and not be so immature that they really aren't aware of the consequences and capable of using protection and so on, is to make it clear that if you can't talk about sex (and protection) with your partner, you probably aren't ready to have sex. This goes hand in hand with requiring an enthusiastic yes, rather than an absence of no, in order to consider that you have consent.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAriane

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