The Big Sleepover: Surviving their First Night Away

And you thought the milestones were over! Well, here’s another one . . . The first sleepover.  Do you remember your first sleepover? The excitement, anxiety, nervousness, and fear?  Did you manage to make through your first one without calling mom in the wee hours of the morning?

Oh, there was the gossip, the junk food, bleary-eyed chatter, and so much fun.  Now, it’s time to let your little one in on the sleepover adventure. That's right, once your child feels comfortable being more independent, the sleepover drama starts.

So how do you know if you and your child are ready?

Can your child handle it?

If your children have been begging and pleading for a round-the-clock party with their pals, here are a few things to consider:

  • Do they sleep well at night, without needing you to comfort them?
  • Are they able to play independently without needing you nearby?
  • Do they often talk to you about the friend who invited them?
  • Do they often have nightmares, talk in their sleep, or have other sleep issues that might disturb the other kids?
  • Are they good about listening to their bodies and knowing when it’s time to sleep?
  • Can they handle so many hours with the same child/children, or do your daytime play dates often end in arguments?
  • Are they comfortable falling asleep in unfamiliar surroundings (for example, when you go on family trips)?

You want to make sure that your children will feel safe and enjoy themselves before you send them to someone else's house for the night. That being said, there are some very important questions that you need to ask yourself before you send your children off:

Have you met the friend's parents?

Entrusting your children to other adults can be worrying. Just as you want to ensure they receive high quality childcare, you want to know they’ll be in good hands if they go to a friend's house for an overnight play date.

As the parent, you should never, ever feel guilty or nosey for asking your children’ friend's parents questions about themselves and their home. Your children's safety is of utmost importance, and if the parents who have offered to let your children stay the night are not open to discussing what you can expect, your children are better off not going. Make sure to ask what type of adult supervision there will be and who’s in charge.  Find out what the evening’s schedule is – what types of games or entertainment will there be?  How late can the kids stay up?  What are the house rules when it comes to screen time, playing outside, etc?

And one of the most important questions to ask – and one of the hardest to bring up – is whether or not there are firearms in the house. It can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but it is crucial that you know.

Far too many children die from accidental shootings every year. If the family does own firearms, ask if they are out in the open, or locked up in a safe. Owning a gun doesn't have to be a deal breaker for a sleepover. As long as there are proper safety precautions taken, you can use your judgment to decide if you feel comfortable with your children staying at their friend's house.

How far away is the friend's house?

In the event that your children get hurt, or changes their minds, will you be able to get to them in a reasonable amount of time? You don't want to spend an hour driving across town to pick up your children – especially if it's late at night.

How do you feel about sending your children away for the night?

If your intuition is telling you that a sleepover is a bad idea, maybe you should listen. Even if your children are convinced that they are ready, and you trust their friend's parents, and you can't find a good reason not to let them go, sometimes your gut just knows. Just be sure it isn't you being over-paranoid and afraid to let your children go. If you genuinely have feelings of hesitation, talk to your children about reconsidering the sleepover for another time. Or suggest having the friend over to your house for the night.

Now you’re hosting the party?

When the shoe is on the other foot, you’ve opened yourself up to a whole new set of considerations. Just as you have questions for your children's friend's parents, they may have the same questions for you. So be prepared to answer them.

If you know the child that yours wants to have over, are they well behaved and respectful? It's completely fine to tell your children that their friend can't come over if that friend has a bad attitude. This sends the message that rude behavior and disobedience are not acceptable in your home.

Do you have the space for the kids to sleep? Can you provide snacks and entertainment? Will you plan a themed event?

Do you feel comfortable supervising the children all night? Even older children need boundaries enforced, especially since they’re more likely to act out when they’re with their friends.

Also, you’re going to need to have a plan on what to do if a child feels scared or lonely. Will you take the child home? Will the parents pick the child up? Will the sleepover continue?

And what about if the children aren’t getting along? Even the best of friends can get into brawls. So in the event that your children's sleepover turns into a nightmare (pun intended), figure out your game plan.  

Your children's first sleepover can elicit feelings of excitement for your children, and feelings of nervousness. By taking the time to reflect on all of the pros and cons, you and your children can decide together when it's the right time for them to take the first sleepover plunge.  

Do your remember your first sleepover?  Share your childhood memories with us.

Tags : everyday celebrations   parties   sleepover   milestones   

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