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Party Pooper and Sleepovers

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My family has been invited to a New Year's Eve party. There will be lots of food, kids and karaoke. My 14-year-old daughter doesn't want to go. She wants to stay home by herself. She often tries to opt out of family plans she isn't particularly jazzed about. I think she should be forced to join the family sometimes. Is this right? -- Mad Mom

Dear Mom: Teenagers routinely want to do nothing with their families. They want to sleep in and be left alone in their rooms right after a brief moment of socialization while foraging for food. Now, with teens being connected with all of their friends through tiny handheld devices, it makes it ever more difficult to motivate them to get out of the house. Teens start to act as if family time were passe and everything were boring.

The challenge of parenting a child at this age is knowing when to let go and when to hold on tight. Teens are pushing away from their parents toward an independent path. That means learning to manage their time and relationships. But if left to their own devices, they would ditch the family for friends or alone time. Don't let your daughter disconnect completely.

Every week or so have a family activity that is mandatory. It could be a dinner, game night or a party. There should also be the expectation that some family time or events are nonnegotiable. Don't let your daughter opt out of less desirable activities. If you are upfront and clear about the responsibility for joining the family and you remain unwavering, you will hopefully avoid some of the whining and negotiating. Long story short: She goes to the New Year's Eve party.

Dear Family Coach: Our kids are 8 and 10 and don't really participate in sleepovers. I'm starting to worry that maybe sleepovers are an important part of development? Should we consider pursuing them more? -- Dad to Homebodies

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Dear Dad: Sleepovers are a terrific opportunity for kids to spend more time with friends or relatives than during a typical play date. And it's not just more time. Sleepovers help kids deepen their relationships. Rather than running home, kids learn to resolve minor conflicts throughout the date. They tell stories in the dark. They have the time to play endless games of Monopoly or experiment with nail and hair products. They wake up early and giggle in their room until it's time to have breakfast together. Most kids love having a buddy over for the night.

Sometimes kids do not enjoy sleeping away from their parents, or parents worry about kids in other people's homes. Some separation anxiety is normal and should be respected. However, if the children are interested in inviting a friend over or regularly being asked to come to a friend's house, let them try it.

For maximum chance of success, it's best to have some ground rules established. Decide on bedtime, what the kids are allowed to do and what is out of bounds. Then think about whom might be a good overnight guest. Not all friends should be invited for a lengthy visit. You may even decide to start with a cousin or a neighbor. Plan a few special activities for the kids, since they are on the younger side. Lastly, make sure you don't have loads planned for the following day. Most kids are worn out from the fun and lack of sleep.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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