Sleepovers are a normal part of the growing-up experience and part of being a foster parent is helping foster children recapture some of these normal experiences. Sleepovers, however are sometimes difficult to manage, especially if your foster child struggles with behavior issues due to abuse and neglect.
Behavioral Issues that May Be a Problem During Sleepovers
Sexual Behavior - Children who have been sexually abused sometimes suffer with sexual behavior due to being introduced to sex at an early age. Behavior may include open masturbation, inappropriate touching of others, sexual talk, advanced knowledge, and inappropriate language for their age. Sometimes these children fall prey to further abuse as they can be easy victims, so sending them off for a sleepover can be scary for parents.
Food Issues - Children who have suffered neglect sometimes suffer from food issues, such as food hoarding or overeating. These children may be prone to eating more than their share at a party or more focused on the snacks than any other activity.
False Allegations - Some children who have suffered abuse and neglect have found that they can get a lot of attention by claiming abuse or neglect, especially when in new situations around new people. These children may feel the need to tell the sleepover host untruths about your foster home, or even return from the party and say untrue things about the host.
Runaway or Roaming - Some children with a history of running may feel that an overnight is the perfect opportunity to sneak out of the home and check out the community after dark. Not to mention, take a few other party guest with her.
Bed Wetter - Many children suffer with bed wetting and it can be embarrassing during an overnight.
Few Ideas to Help You and Your Child Manage Sleepovers Successfully
Check your foster agency's guidelines regarding the rules on sleepovers and foster children. Contact the child's worker and make sure they know that the child will be participating in an overnight activity.
Go over behavior rules with your child. Remind them of what will be expected of them in terms of behavior and conduct. Taking turns, not eating all of the snacks, leaving the property, talking about sexual matters, inappropriate touching - are good things to review with your child before attending the sleepover.
Clue in the sleepover host. While foster parents can't break confidentiality, it's important for those supervising the party to know that your child may need extra supervision. Let the caregiver know the strengths of your child, and also some things to be cautious of, such as the child having a tendency to overeat, or it not being appropriate for your child to be changing in the same room with another child.
Offer to provide extra snacks. If your child is one that tends to overeat or hoard food. Pack extra food in your child's backpack that is just for your child, such as a fruit snack or crackers. Offer to provide a snack for the evening for the children to share. Remind your child of how she physically feels if she overeats and consider role playing the embarrassing moment of vomiting from overeating. Really discuss the point of the overnight, and that it's not about the food, but about spending time with friends.
Volunteer to help supervise the party. Most parents would love to have more help and you could keep your eye on things.
Don't forget the pack the overnight diapers. While bed wetting is embarrassing, there are new products out that are thin enough to not feel or wear like real diapers, but keep children dry overnight. These may be a great option for children who suffer from bed wetting.
Allow the child to remain at the party until a set time. When it's time to get ready for bed, then bring the child home from the party. The child gets to participate in most of the activities, but not overnight. If there is a high probability that she will have trouble keeping control over behaviors, this may be the better option than to not allow the overnight to occur.
Host your own sleepover. When the party is at your home you can keep watch over activities, and control the guest list. You will still need to be vigilant in supervision, but you may also feel more at ease if the sleepover is in your home.
Enjoy the night off. If your child does attend a sleepover, take this opportunity to have your own night off to enjoy. Go see a movie that's not animated and eat dinner at a place that does not have a drive-thru window. It could be a great night of respite!