Questions to Ask Before and After Sleepovers to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse


first sleepover for two little girls

Sleepovers are a right of passage for some children; for others, it is a non-negotiable “no.” As parents, we are finding our voices by asking about allergens and even guns in the home before a playdate or sleepover, but we also need to be asking about how children will be kept safe from boundary violations and sexual abuse.

As a community educator in child sexual abuse prevention, I am often asked by parents about sleepover safety and how to even begin a conversation with other parents. If you choose to allow your children to do sleepovers, make sure they are safe by asking the following questions taken from Darkness to Light,, a nonprofit empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse.

Before the Sleepover 

What does your gut say? Usually your gut reaction is correct. Pay attention to it.

Is your kid “ready?” How old are they? Have they been away from home overnight before? How did that experience go?

How well do you know this family? What have previous interactions been like? Can you talk with the parent(s) about any concerns or needs? If not, consider this a negative on the gut-check meter.

What kind of adult supervision will there be and who else will be present? Will other adults be around? Older youth?

What is the household like? Does the house itself seem safe? What are the sleeping arrangements?

How does the family monitor internet usage? Where are the computers and video game systems located and what rules are in place?

For older children and teens, consider asking about rules around cell phone usage (Are they allowed to use them at all times, in all areas of the home?). Have your own digital safety conversation with your child beforehand and include a conversation about public and permanent. 

What are your hard and fast rules? This can include everything from what video games you allow your child to play, to how you feel about adults consuming alcohol while your child is in the home. Spoiler: ‘No uninterruptible one-one-one situations with adults or other children should be one of your hard and fast rules!  

What safety and comfort contingencies can you put in place? Talk to your kids about different scenarios to help them feel comfortable with facing the unforeseen.

What check-in points can you put into the mix? Maybe a call or text before bedtime? Are drop-ins okay?

After the Sleepover

Plan to talk to your child privately after the sleepover, too. Resist the urge to discuss your child’s behavior or experience with the supervising adults in front of your child. This can often pressure the child into feeling that they should report that everything was ok, even if the experience wasn’t. 

Did you enjoy yourself? How did you spend your time?  

What was your favorite part of the sleepover? What was the least favorite part? Would you want to do it again?

Did you feel safe?

Was there anything else that you wanted to share?

You can always be the parent in the group who starts the sleepover trend by offering up answers to these questions before others even ask.  Doing so can lay the groundwork that you will expect to hear these same kinds of answers before your child spends the night at their home.


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Tracy is the Director of Programming and Partnerships for Darkness to Light, a child sexual abuse prevention organization. She grew up in northeast Ohio, and has lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Northern Virginia and has worked in the arts, in education, in non-profits and in ed tech. Her husband's job brought them to the Bay Area and there's no looking back! Tracy is mom to two trans teens who are just beginning their journey. Self-care includes pedicures, reading, cooking, crafting, and just being with her family. She also serves as Chair of the Board for the Attachment and Trauma Network, a national non-profit.


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