Ask Audrey: 'Should I let my daughter, 7, sleepover at a boy's house?'

Audrey Griffen
Contributor

Audrey is a mother to a 15-year-old girl and baby boy. She probably should have taken into account who she was marrying (Osher Günsberg) much earlier, as she’s far more comfortable behind the camera as a freelance hair and makeup artist, than a TV host’s wife who doesn’t know how to work her angles for any on-camera duties.

Audrey loves to cook, decorate cakes, gardening, DIY and is very handy with a flat-pack, few of which you would pay her to do for you, but she’d happily give it a shot for free.

Audrey Griffen gives her take on friendships. Photo: Supplied

Hi Audrey,

I have a conundrum about my seven-year-old daughter and her new friend James.

They’re in the same class at school and really hit it off when they went trick or treating together at Halloween.

They have really similar personalities and quickly became firm friends, with my daughter coming home just three days later wearing a necklace that James had made for her.

A matter of days after that, she asked my wife and I if James could come for a sleep-over, and while we were a little hesitant, we said yes.

Boy and girl playing with dolls

We set up a blow-up mattress on the floor in our daughter’s room and the two of them had a blast and were up chatting loudly until midnight.

When we went to check on them after they had fallen asleep, we noticed the door was closed and that she was sleeping on the blow-up bed beside James and she had her arm around him.

We joked about it the next day with James’ parents, saying it was pretty cute, but now James has invited our daughter to a sleep-over at his house and I don’t know what to do.

My wife is out of town and said she’s happy with whatever decision I make, but our daughter has never been to a sleepover at someone else’s house before, let alone, a boy’s house.

I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into this situation and getting worked up over nothing, or if I should be concerned about my daughter’s new friendship; what do you think?

Dear Doting Dad,

Your question has been floating around my head over the holiday period and I think I’m finally ready to get off the fence on this one.

It’s a fairly normal reaction, as adults, to be doubtful as to the extent of the friendship between your daughter and her male friend from school. I can understand why you may be worried about the kids having sleepovers together, and reading between the lines on the level of affection that they have with each other. As adults, a friendship with someone of the opposite sex is often more than purely platonic, it’s almost as if we’ve forgotten that as children, a friend is just a friend, regardless of whether they are of the same gender.

It sounds as if your daughter and James have a great friendship, and it’s fantastic that they share common interests and enjoy each other’s company. Growing up, I remember that by the time that I got to your daughter’s age, the playground was becoming more segregated. The boys would play with each other and the girls did the same. While that seems to happen fairly naturally, we should be encouraged by any friendships that are respectful and rewarding, irrespective of the gender combination. By the time I got to high school, which was an all girls school, it was so bizarre that suddenly everyone became obsessed with boys, almost as if the years of friendship and normalcy that we had growing up with these very same boys was replaced by an insatiable need to be talking about, giggling at and preening towards the opposite sex. 

Audrey says it's good for children to have friendships with both girls and boys. Photo: Getty Images

When Georgia, my daughter, was in primary school, she played with both boys and girls, and I personally feel like it’s made her life as a teenager much more balanced. She has maintained friendships with her male friends as well as her female friends, and it means that while she’s at an all girls’ school, she’s not constantly thinking about boys. Well, no more than her hormones dictate anyway. While I wouldn’t have blinked an eye at a primary school mixed gender sleepover, I’d probably discourage a teenage one for obvious reason.

Another thing to keep in mind as your daughter is growing up, is not to let the discomfort of her maturing into a young adult seep into your communication with her. When your daughter is talking about her friends, making a big deal out of her friendships or teasing her, for eg. “Ooooooh- is he your boyfriend?”, will likely lead her to not share things with you. Being a person who she feels comfortable to open up to is so important, especially as she gets older and faces greater challenges.

You’re doing a great job, Dad. Keep being open minded and observant of your daughter and the interactions with her friends, and let common sense prevail. Your support and love will help her thrive, and encouraging respectful, rewarding friendships will help her to grow up into a balanced and confident person.

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