Rather than allow young children to pack an overnight bag and spend the night at a friend’s home, there’s a new trend among some parents across the U.S.
It’s called the “sleepunder” or “lateover,” with parents picking up their kids before it’s time to go to sleep.
To learn more about what’s driving the trend, Fox News Digital spoke to two psychologists as well as a parent for perspective about why some parents prefer their children to sleep in their own beds.
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“Sleepunders or lateovers are particularly helpful for younger kids or those who have separation anxiety or who are sensitive to sleep or transition issues,” said Erica Komisar, a New York-based psychoanalyst, parenting expert and author.
She said the practice isn’t about overprotective parents, necessarily. It’s about being sensitive to individual children’s needs.
“Some kids can do sleepovers without any hesitation, while others are less comfortable changing their routine,” she said.
The trend of quasi-sleepovers is a good compromise for parents who may be anxious about having their kids spend the night at other people’s homes, Nicholette Leanza, M.Ed, LPCC-S, a psychotherapist at LifeStance Health in Beechwood, Ohio, told Fox News Digital.
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Here are more details.
What’s causing today’s parental uneasiness about sleepovers?
There are fears that children may be harmed while sleeping over at someone else’s home, said Leanza.
“The fears that there may be guns in the home, or that a child may become a potential victim of sexual abuse, are enough to make any parent paranoid and uneasy about letting their kid spend the night elsewhere,” she said.
Neha J., who lives in New York and who asked that her last name be omitted for privacy, has a 9-year-old daughter. She and her spouse have a strict policy of no sleepovers.
“It’s just something both me and my husband have grown up with as well. We’re not comfortable with our daughter going for sleepovers,” she said.
The mom, who is the inventor of a puzzle game for youngsters that focuses on improved cognitive and decision-making abilities, said the couple typically picks up their daughter around 11 p.m.
“Or [we’ll do] the latest the host family will allow us to come get her,” she added. “So she can feel like she is getting a sleepover without actually spending the night.”
What’s the impact on kids of ‘sleepunders’?
The experience of being picked up late in the evening can be positive or negative depending on the individual child, said Leanza.
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“Some kids may prefer to sleep in their own beds, so they don’t mind being picked up without spending the night,” she said.
“But others may feel embarrassed that they aren’t allowed to spend the night and that they’re different from their peers.”
“It’s not a matter of trust in her, but rather a decision we’ve made based on our comfort level.”
Neha J. shared that there has been pushback at times from her daughter.
“As she’s grown older, this arrangement sometimes disappoints her,” she said. “We explain to her that, while we understand her desire to stay with friends, as parents, we feel more comfortable having her at home for the night, especially when we aren’t well-acquainted with the other child’s family.”
She added, “We emphasize that it’s not a matter of trust in her, but rather a decision we’ve made based on our comfort level.”
The mom said that a primary reason for picking up their daughter before bedtime is having peace of mind about her safety.
“We believe children are most vulnerable when asleep, and by bringing her home, we eliminate even the slightest possibility of harm or discomfort that might occur in an unfamiliar environment,” she said.
“My advice would be for parents to be cautious but not overprotective.”
The practice of “sleepunders” could be a trial run for real sleepovers, experts note.
Parents might start by allowing kids to sleep over at the homes of people they know well and trust, said Leanza with LifeStance Health.
“That may be close relatives or the homes of other loved ones, and this can be a sort of test run for both the kid and the parent.”
If a child wants to sleep over at the home of a friend or classmate whom the family doesn’t know well, it’s important for a parent to have conversations with the other parent about any potential safety issues, such as whether they have guns in their home, Leanza recommended.
“My advice would be for parents to be cautious but not overprotective,” she noted.
“We all want to protect our children, but we also don’t want to smother them. It’s all about balance.”
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