Preparing Your Child – and You – For The First Sleepover

First sleepovers can be a nerve-racking experience for kids and parents alike, but an open line of communication between all involved parents can instill peace of mind and ensure that the child feels secure in their biggest – and often, first – move towards independence.

Asking Difficult Questions
Most parents have a hard time with social boundaries in asking questions to necessary gain peace of mind. What type of tv programs or video games are viewed in the home? Do the children have access to the internet? Are there firearms? Are there older siblings (of opposite gender) and what are the sleeping arrangements? Get the answers you need, and deserve, to feel good about placing your child in anyone else’s care.

When Is My Child Ready?
There’s debate over the appropriate age for a first sleep over, but you know your child better than anyone and are the best gauge of his/her readiness. Sleepovers with family members (w/o parents) is a good first step before embarking on a friend sleepover. It gives kids an initial sense of independence in their “comfort zone” and establishes a routine of trust wherein they understand they return to you (and their normal life) in the morning.

Safety First
You have to, of course, address safety concerns, which include getting answers to some of the above questions. Additionally, make sure you’ve exchanged contact info…and back up info. Provide a medical release form that allows for your child to be medically treated in case of emergency. Also provide info about allergies or other medical conditions.

Prepping Your Child
You should start this process a couple days before the big event. Mostly you want to give your children a sense of comfort, but also let them know that you’re available if it doesn’t work out – the first time sleeping away from parents can be a very scary thing. Make sure you have a clear morning after/pick up routine so that they’ve an understanding of the duration. Have your child take their favorite toy with them for emotional security.

Raising a Good Houseguest
Manners are important, and believe it or not…they are the biggest “fear factor” for kids going into these situations. They’re afraid they’ll do something wrong or anger a grown up. You of course want to make good manners a part of daily life at your house…but especially so that you’re not cramming those lessons into busy little minds the night before they become a guest in someone else’s home.

What About Co-Ed Sleepovers?
This is a personal choice for parents…and keep in mind that if there are other siblings in the host home…it may already be a co-ed sleepover. But chaos can be avoided if there are a manageable number of “sleepers”, some structured activities and a dedicated space for them to hang out with minimal co-mingling.

How Much Hovering Is Too Much?
Depends on the age and activity level of the children. Just remember, the best sleepover memories from your childhood probably didn’t involve your parent in the room.

How To Host A Sleepover
Here are some quick tips to make sure your child’s friends are comfortable when they spend the night at your house:

  • Limit the number of guest “sleepers” to the age of the children. For example, a 5-year old girl should have no more than five girls, including herself.
  • Chat with the other parents beforehand. See whether there’s anything special you should know about such as allergies to pets or certain foods, fear of the dark or sleepwalking.
  • Leave plenty of lights on so no one gets spooked by unfamiliar surroundings…and maybe give each kid a mini flashlight.
  • Set–and stick to–a reasonable bedtime. No parent wants an exhausted, difficult child the next morning.
  • Plan a wind-down activity. Have the kids read to each other, tell stories or sing songs.
  • Set a pickup time. That way the child knows exactly when to expect his parents the next day.
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