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8 Questions for Safer Sleepovers

With school in session comes new friendships, the rekindling of old friendships, birthday invitation after birthday invitation, and the request for sleepovers.

The word sleepover is enough to make any parent’s radar start a-buzzing. Torn between one of the exciting joys of childhood and wanting to keep your child safe – what do you do?

If you are considering allowing your child to attend a sleepover, first start with a gut check. What does your gut feel when you think about your child at this home? If you have no initial reaction, it may be because you don’t have enough information one way or the other about how safe your child will be in the other family’s care. “No feeling” is not an adequate response.

Thanks to Darkness to Light, they have compiled eight questions for parents to refer to for safer sleepovers. Beyond the gut check, ask yourself the following questions and really think through the answers to each.

1. What would make my child, tween, or teen “ready”?
Reflect on the child’s maturity, disposition and experience with being separated from his/her parents.

2. How well do I know this family?
Reflect on the interactions you’ve had with this family. Ideally, there have been several interactions prior to the sleepover.

3. What kind of adult supervision will there be and who else will be present?
Will there be teenagers present? Others from outside the immediate family? Is this a group sleepover?

4. What is their household like?
Will your child feel comfortable in this home? Does the layout lend itself to safety and supervision? Where will your child be sleeping? Is there an open door policy during sleepovers?

5. Can I talk with this parent(s) about my concerns and needs?
If you can’t, consider this a negative on the gut check meter. If you can’t comfortably voice your concerns, how can you expect your child to feel safe in this home.

6. What are my hard and fast rules?
Obviously, no isolated one-on-one situations should be allowed under any circumstances. Beyond that rule, what about movies? Drinking? Must your child check in for permission if the original plans change?

7. What safety and comfort contingencies can I put in place?
Does the home have a pool or guns in the house? Think creatively together about all the different scenarios when it comes to preparing your child for safety and comfort. The What if? game is a good way to talk through possible scenarios and the appropriate responses. What if you woke up in the middle of the night and got scared? What if Danny (older brother) asked you to hang out in his room? This is also a good time to consider sending a cell phone with your child – making is easier to call if they are ready to come home.

8. What check-in points can we put into the mix?
Some parents ask for a call before bedtime, or a text or two throughout the evening.

Having considered all of these questions, now what is your gut feeling?

For this shadowing experience, I was able to shadow Nick Zadina, a training specialist at Project Harmony. The experience was by far one of my favorites. This experience helped sculpt my career path in that it made me realize there are so many options out there.

- UNMC High School Alliance Program – Student Journal

We wish to thank you for your hospitality and the wonderful program and tour of Project Harmony. We are so fortunate to have an organization acting on the behalf of our children with such outstanding enthusiasm and dedication.

- Rotary Club of Omaha Northwest

Thank you so much for coming to Children’s and speaking to our staff. Your talk on “Understanding Poverty” was excellent, and I could see “wheels turning” as some staff members commented on simple ways their interactions might make a difference for children and parents.

- Patty Carrell, CMSW

I have felt that my input has been highly valued and respected when it comes to doing my job, and that is something that speaks volumes to the working environment here at Project Harmony.

- Brenda Jewell

We began collaborating with the Project Harmony through their Connections program last year, and we’ve continued the partnership. Connections represents an extremely valuable partnership and an opportunity to provide our students with a bridge to mental health services.

- Papillion La Vista Community Schools

Our experience and partnership with Project Harmony/Connections has been fantastic! It is a comfort knowing we have a partner who can connect our students and families with the appropriate resources in times of crisis or trauma.

- Millard Public Schools

This shadowing experience actually made me very interested in this field. One aspect that helped me narrow my choice of careers is the environment that Project Harmony had. It was very upbeat, cheerful and bright.

- UNMC High School Alliance Program – Student Journal

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Project Harmony for planning and delivering professional development to our 70 counselors, social workers and community counselors. We feel fortunate to have such a valuable resource in our community to partner with.

- Millard Public Schools

You have a top rate program – really national quality. I’m totally impressed.

- Lisa Fontes

At our last D2 Center Board meeting, I was describing the training and professional development we provide for our staff. At the top of the list was Project Harmony. Please know that you are providing an invaluable service to nonprofits in our community.

- Greg Emmel

Congratulations on the great media coverage of your Stewards class at Project Harmony on WOWT. You did a great job articulating the importance of prevention, and Susan was amazing too. Thank you so much for your partnership and all the important work you are doing.

- Cindy McElhinney – Darkness to Light

Just wanted to know that you made a difference in my life, and I will be using that momentum to make a difference in the lives of others. You are truly a rock star and a role model for me. Thank you for a new life I’m getting the chance to live.

- Anonymous

Many children through my caseload have received a backpack generously donated to the Project Harmony Triage Center. I have witnessed many faces light up when given the opportunity to pick out a new backpack, and I am very grateful for the generosity of the Junior League.

- DHHS – Children & Family Services

I have never felt as valued at other organizations like I do at Project Harmony. I really feel that the culture of a working environment is incredibly important. If an employee feels respected, valued and supported, that person will likely give more to fulfill the mission.

- Javier Castellote

Nick and Javier were great teachers and role players. It gave us an opportunity to see how someone in that situation would have reacted to our questions. They did a great job at showing us the difference between sympathy and empathy.

- Anonymous

I was able to shadow Mr. Nick Zadina. He was in charge of dealing with abused kids and help them. I am thankful to know all the information I learned during shadowing because it was eye opening.

- UNMC High School Alliance Program – Student Journal

The experience at Project Harmony was a deepening reminder of empathy that will be vital in my career as a nurse. I felt my perspective was widened on how others think, especially when discussing the assumptions we make.

- Anonymous

I didn’t know how many people work at Project Harmony, so I drew a lot to show how much Project Harmony means to me!

- Project Harmony Client

As difficult as a removal is on a child, the backpack they receive at Project Harmony provides a sense of belonging and hope. It truly is amazing something that seems so simple can change the perspective and shine light on these children.

- DHHS – Children & Family Services

Great leadership for a wonderful cause with outstanding long-term goals. Keep on doing all the good you do.

- Bill & Jean O’Conner

Project Harmony is the reason I started my journey in college. I just finished my associates and I'm going for my bachelors now in Child Protection and Juvenile Justice. Y'all helped my daughter back in early 2013 and I knew what I wanted to do with my life — help children.

- LaLa Ann

A young lady who works in our field told me that she loved what we do here at Project Harmony — she had been to Project Harmony seven years ago for a forensic interview. She said her positive experience was the biggest reason she is doing the work that she is today.

- Trainee

I found out that my foster son is going to have a forensic interview here at Project Harmony soon. It’s been interesting being on the other side of things and feeling so reassured that the child I care so deeply about is in very caring and capable hands.

- Jessica Kroeker

Nick demonstrated how one person could impact a huge group of student nurses by just attending his presentation. He gave me the reason, the courage to act, and the knowledge how to save victims that I will face in my future nursing career.

- Anonymous

I recently attended the Testifying Training course. Since that class I have been subpoenaed three times, and I had to testify at each hearing. Without this class I would have been less than prepared and too nervous to be credible. Thank you so much!

- Jenny Lewis

You are part of the solution.

The cycle of abuse does not have to continue, but we can’t end it alone. Anyone has the power to be someone who makes our community a safe place for all children.

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