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I have a female friend, whom I've been friends with for over 20 years. Her 12 year old boy (I'm his godfather) is very fascinated by my virtual reality gaming setup at home, and very often and very insistently asks me if he can come play and spend the night so he can play more the following day.

I'm a single man, 37 years old, and I live alone in my own house. I am not comfortable having kids spend time in my house without other adults present, preferably a parent [1].

So far I've been able to shut down the requests by stating that I don't have the time for it. But I want to shut this idea down for good.

To clarify: He's more than welcome to come and play, I enjoy sharing my interests with anyone like minded. But not kids alone, even if I have known them their entire life and is a close friend of the family.

How can I explain this to the boy, preferably in a way that won't make him sad or feel that I'm rejecting his friendship in general.

Update (about a month after posting the question): The situation has now been resolved.

He visited me with his mother and sisters a few weeks ago, to watch a movie and play som Virtual Reality games.

As expected, he again asked if he could stay after the others left, and spend the night. With his mother present in the conversation, I told him that he could of course stay as long as he wants, as long as one of his parents are there as well. He looked to his mother and asked if he couldn't just stay alone, ensuring it would of course be fine. Fortunately she agreed with me, and stated that a parent should always be present, and since I'm not a parent, it just wouldn't work out without her staying as well. He accepted that with a bit of a frown, but the frown quickly vanished.

They visited again this weekend, and we all had a great time - and an important detail: No request to spend the night this time!

Success! :-)

[1]: Being in charge of the kid is probably the largest part of what I don't like about that situation. I just don't know how to behave around kids alone. I feel on edge, constantly overthinking everything I do. Also to some people it might seem weird that an adult living alone has other people's children spending time unsupervised - I don't want anyone to have the opportunity to think something wrong might be going on in that situation. I know it's a bit paranoid, and frankly it's not the main reason. But it's a part of the uncomfortable feeling. I'm a bit introverted, and sometimes I have a hard time expressing my emotions. And I find kids difficult to 'read' sometimes.

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    Are you neighbors? Walking distance? Is there any sort of drive involved to act as a barrier? – WernerCD Jul 17 '18 at 17:20
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    It's not the "environment" that I think is relevant (old neighbors and urban environ - although that's good info) - it's the distance that's between you and said 12 year old. Most kids these days aren't allow to walk "miles" and a 30 minute drive in an urban environment is 20-30 miles, ballpark guess. I'd not expect my kid to stay anywhere not directly related by immediate family - and not at a babysitters. It basically says random "HEY NEIGHBOR!!!" visits aren't an issue. - it also explains why visits without mom would basically lead into a "can I stay" question, since 12 can't just walk home – WernerCD Jul 17 '18 at 19:29
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Jul 18 '18 at 8:00
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    @Jasper That's a general issue affecting all males who're ever in contact with children, especially alone. There is no available solution to this issue, other than a change of attitude in the society in general. That's not something I can handle, so I won't spend energy trying to solve that (to me) unsolvable issue. – Gertsen Jul 18 '18 at 11:36
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    Or is it an issue with how you perceive society to be? Probably bits of both. I'll leave it at that, though, as comments aren't for extended discussions. – Jasper Jul 18 '18 at 12:07
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He's a kid. Treat him like a kid. That means being explicit about your boundaries.

Kid: "Can I stay the night? I want to play some more on the VR tomorrow!"
You: "No. I'd rather you don't stay here without one of your parents around. You're free to come again next time with your mom/dad to play with the VR some more."

Sure he might be a bit upset that he doesn't get what he wants. (He might even fake being upset to manipulate you into changing your mind). But that's OK.

Just set your boundary; be clear about it any time he asks and he'll learn that he'll just have to be happy about the time he does get to spend with you playing on your awesome VR setup.


Besides clearly setting the boundary with the boy, also talk about it with his mom. Just kindly explain to her what you are okay with so she can tell her son the exact same thing you do: That he's welcome to play anytime, as long as it's along with a parent (and no sleepovers).

Despite kids telling you otherwise in an attempt to get what they want, in general they do like having clear boundaries. (If you don't believe this, feel free to check out any question on parenting.SE, I'd bet you at least 90% of the good answers tell you to just set a clear boundary and stick to it).

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    Good point. I just don't like disappointing people, especially not kids. But I suppose that a once-and-for-all disappointment on this subject, might be better than several future rejections. He's just so enthusiastic about it, so I feel bad for rejecting him. – Gertsen Jul 17 '18 at 9:35
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    Do you have a lot of experience dealing with kids? Based on what I've seen, I can't imagine that telling a kid "I'd rather" is likely to go well (because, taken literally, you're stating your preference, not firmly saying no). Even to an adult that would hardly be clearly setting your boundaries. What's wrong with simply "You can't"? – NotThatGuy Jul 17 '18 at 17:18
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    @NotThatGuy I have plenty of experience with my nieces/nephews, babysitting, ... but I'm not native english. The exact wording depends mostly on how you usually interact with said child and I don't think it matters too much for my answer to the question here. Feel free to adapt it to the situation you're in. You're probably right that the wording I used here may be too soft for a 12 year old in general, but given that OP has a friendly status with the kid already I'm expecting a gentler "I feel" aproach would probably be hard enough to convey what the expected boundary is here. – Imus Jul 17 '18 at 20:56
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Please tell me if I've got this right, not completely sure if I've interpreted your question correctly but I've tried my best

I understand where you're coming from. It can be awkward having a child over without their parent(s), especially should someone see them arriving at your house and spending the night when they know that you live alone - it just looks weird to people. You could be the most trustworthy human on the earth and it's still a strange thing to have a friends child stay the night, no matter how close you and said friend are.

If I were you I would explain myself to my friend, why you would prefer if her son just came over for a few hours to play and then went home again, putting emphasis on the fact that he is welcome any time to play, just not to spend the night. If she says that she's okay with him staying the night tell her that that's fine and you're delighted to hear that she trusts you enough to have her son over for a night, but you aren't okay with him staying over because you don't want things to be misconstrued should anyone else see or whatever your reasons may be. If she's that good of a friend to you, she will understand and you can either let her explain it to her son or you can sit down and explain it to him together. He may feel a little sad over it but he'll come around quickly, kids are great like that - good luck and I hope this helps!

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    You got it right, I find it weird and uncomfortable having kids in my house unsupervised by other adults. Even if I do have a guest room he could spend the night in. Thanks for your answer, I think I'll talk to him (and his mother if she's with him) next time I visit them and he asks to spend the night at my house. – Gertsen Jul 17 '18 at 9:32
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You should tell about this situation to his mother, and then, when he'll ask you again, reply with:

You should ask your mother.

At this point, his mother will tell him "no", giving him a reasonable explanation if she consider it necessary.

I think it's correct that it's his mother to be the one that educates him and denies this request, she can take this as an opportunity to teach him how to behave with other people and what is a reasonable question or not.

  • Interesting idea. I'll keep it handy as a backup plan, in case he won't listen to reason when I tell him no next time :-) – Gertsen Jul 18 '18 at 6:39
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    but what if the mother says yes? – superstar Jul 18 '18 at 21:20
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    @superstar Ask her to not to? – Crowley Jul 18 '18 at 21:24
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    @Crowley: That's asking the mother to either lie to her child (by answering "Yes" to "Do you mind if I spend the night at Gersten's house?", even though she personally might not mind) or to confuse her child (by honestly answering "Gersten does not want you to, even though he told you that you just have to get my permission."), both of which are not OK in my opinion. – Heinzi Jul 19 '18 at 12:59
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    @Heinzi She might not mind if her kid sleeps elsewhere. But the question is about sleeping at Gersten's. Gersten do mind it, ergo his friend should mind as well. Therefore it is not a lie. – Crowley Jul 19 '18 at 13:20
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I copy on Imus' perfect answer.

I would add that the possible disappointment is based on what the kid really wants. Stay at yours and play for longer time, or stay at yours alone and play?

In other words, is them visiting you with their parent an option?

-- Can I stay here and play a bit more?
-- No, you can't unless [Alice/Bob] is here as well.

You can have a time with your friend(s) while their kid play your VR set or you can play the set all three (four?). Which is a double-win scenario, isn't it?

All you, [Alice] and [Bob] have to agree on this plan prior the kid is allowed to take this option in account, obviously.

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You've got fine answers already, but I'd like to add, that you are not paranoid at all.
I'm actually surprised you will be alone in your house with a kid in the daytime.
When we have had other peoples kid(s) sleeping in our house, I'd always made sure at least my wife or one parent to the kid was staying overnight as well. If a kid woke up in the night, maybe crying because of a nightmare or similar, it's my wife (or overnighting parent) who must take care of it.
As a man, I'd never go alone into an overnighting kid's bedroom.
I am also never alone with a kid in a room anyway, not even in the daytime. At least the door must be wide open, and I want to be sure other adults are nearby.

This sounds paranoid, but it is not much different from 'always wear your seat belt when driving', or 'never go back to a piece of fireworks that didn't go off'.
It might go well 99 out of 100 times, but the one time something goes wrong, it can destroy you.

  • Actually I don't have kids in my house alone, not even in the daytime, as mentioned in my question: I am not comfortable having kids spend time in my house without other adults present, preferably a parent.. Though I can see how not comfortable could be read as I'll allow it, but I don't like it - that is not the case, I don't allow it to happen. Which is why I want the requests for a sleepover to stop. – Gertsen Jul 19 '18 at 12:08

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