It’s the inevitable end of the afternoon play.
Regardless of whether your child has spent 6 hours or 60 minutes with their friend on a playdate, they will always want more. Whispers are exchanged and the bolder of the two will approach one of the parents and ask “Can we have a sleepover?”
Depending on whether you are the host or your child is the invited guest, sleepovers can be a godsend or a nightmare. Kids tend to create a pseudo-personality disorder when the sun goes down at someone else’s house, either amping up to high voltage enthusiasm or crumbling into tears at the mention of home. If your child is about to experience their first sleepover, here are some great tips to prepare them for this exciting, but sometimes scary, introduction to overnight stays with friends.
To clarify, we are talking about one-on-one sleepovers with friends and overnight birthday parties with a group. Most children will have some experience sleeping over at a family member’s home with or without parents by the time they reach the age where they are ready for individual sleepovers with people other than family.
Make Sure They Are Ready
Each child is different and each child will be ready for sleepovers at different times. If your child still has issues with sleeping in their own bed, wetting the bed, nightmares or sleepwalking, perhaps consider waiting a bit longer and overcoming these issues before embarking on a sleepover in an unfamiliar environment. If they experience anxiety or separation issues when away from you, it is also wise to wait. What age you allow your child to sleepover at a friend’s houses is completely up to you and whether you think your child is ready.
“A child who has a long history of sleeping in different beds — due to travel or family transitions — may find the idea of sleeping at a friends’s house quite comfortable,” says Elizabeth Berger, M.D., author ofRaising Kids with Character. “Other children may thrive on routine and hate the idea of change. For them, a sleepover may require a lot of mental preparation. Or, it may just not be their thing, and that’s all right.”
Get To Know The Parents
This is basic parenting 101. If you leave your child in the care of someone else, you entrust that person with the wellbeing and safety of your flesh and blood. Most parents will not entertain the idea of a sleepover without several day time plays and being relatively friendly with the other parents. Show your child you are confident and friendly with the other parents and they will be more secure in staying with them.
Let Them Know It’s OK To Call
Some kids need to just touch base with home when it’s time for playtime to finish and bedtime is upon them. For others, a call home can exasperate feelings of homesickness and sadness. Either way, let your child know it is OK to call at whatever time, whether to be picked up or just to say hello.
Some parents find the ‘after hours callout’ frustrating and embarrassing, however it is simply an indicator that your child is not ready to stay the entire night just yet. Don’t shame them or tell them off, they will eventually build up to being able to stay the night.
If It’s A Party, Check The Guest List
Make sure you confirm all details with the host and ask who else is attending. If your child does not get along with another child on the guest list, this can cause issues. Prepare your child by explaining the importance of basic manners and respect in somebody else’s house and let them know who to go to if there is any problem with other kids. Explain that games and other normal party rituals are usually different at sleepover parties and make sure they know what to expect when it comes to the inevitable late night and early morning.
Have A Sleepover First
If one of your child’s friends are regulars at the sleepover game, why not have them show your child how it’s done? Notoriously, one or two households out of a group of children will become the house where everyone sleeps over, for a number of reasons, including available space and willingness of parents, so if your child is still a little apprehensive, why not become the host house instead? Seeing their friends do it will instil confidence and usually encourage children to reciprocate the behaviour.
Just Keep Talking
Your child will probably have many questions regarding their first sleepover, from “What if I don’t like what they have for dinner?” to “What if I need to go to the toilet in the night?” Just keep coming up with solutions together and let the host parent know if any issues are a real problem for your child. Inside pets, particularly dogs, are a big one if your child is not used to them. Televisions and lights left on or off, availability of ‘white noise’, sleeping with younger or older siblings in the room and morning rituals are also small things you might take for granted in your home but can cause upset in a new environment.
Sleepovers are not some big test that kids have to pass and there is no developmental reason that they need to experience one. Encourage your child to enjoy new activities, but don’t stress if they just don’t ‘get into’ sleepovers. After all, who can deny the comfort of sleeping in your own bed at home!
When did your kids start having sleepovers? How did you go about preparing them?