Letting teens' friends sleep over--but not just to sleep

April 22, 1991|By New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- It sounds like a scene from a made-for-TV movie. Your 15-year-old matter-of-factly announces that her boyfriend is spending the night.

Not in my house! you say. Maybe not.

But it is happening -- teens, some as young as 15, are sleeping with their lovers, with their parents' permission and under the same roof.

Consider Samantha Smith, 17, a junior at a prestigious prep school in the city. Having an overnight date is typical in Samantha's circle.

"My closest friends -- about 14 in all -- have had their boyfriends and girlfriends sleep over in their rooms for two or three years," says Samantha, whose mother Julie requested their real names not be used.

Samantha's boyfriend, Matt, is a frequent overnight guest in their Brooklyn home. Samantha, an honor student, got the nod from her father this winter, while her mother was away on a business trip. "He has a very European attitude about these things," says Julie.

What they didn't know then was that Samantha had already stayed overnight in Matt's lair with his parents' approval.

"It never occurred to me they were sleeping in the same room at Matt's," says Julie, still a bit incredulous.

"I said, 'Look, I don't know if I can deal with this. Why can't Matt stay in your brother's room? Then, you and he can sneak around like normal people.'"

Reluctantly, however, she gave the sleepovers her approval.

"For my generation, it was the back seats of cars. But most city kids today don't have cars."

Most parents who let their kids have sex at home came of age in the '60s. "They are highly intellectual, liberal, affluent, sort of hippies emeritus," observes social psychologist Catherine Chilman. They'd feel like hypocrites if they just said no. Besides, they don't want to saddle their kids with the repressed feelings about sex that their parents tried to instill in them, she says.

Elizabeth Quinn, a writer and the mother of two sons, Paul, 16, and Mike, 20, agrees.

"I'd feel ridiculous telling them 'No sex.' Mike was conceived in the back seat of a Chrysler station wagon before I was married," says Ms. Quinn, who carried the boy in a papoose board at Woodstock.

Parents say they take comfort in knowing their kids' whereabouts.

"I like knowing that they are not having sex somewhere in a field or car where they could be hurt," she says. "I like knowing they're taking precautions against AIDS and using birth control." (Condoms are a staple on the family grocery list.)

Some parents note they don't have the power to enforce a ban on sex.

Similarly, some divorced single parents, who themselves have overnight dates, have a hard time saying no, notes Dr. Chilman.

Still, being so close to their adolescents' sexuality distresses many parents.

"I was afraid I'd accidentally eavesdrop," Ms. Quinn admits. "But they've been audibly discreet. Besides, we all have air conditioners and fans to block out any noise."

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