The First Sleepover: Tips for Sending Your Child Away & For Hosting

“Mom, can I have a sleepover?”

That seemingly innocent question would strike fear into my heart. Sending your kid into the unknown jungle of another kid’s house or taking on the daunting challenge of a herd of young children who aren’t your own are equally scary sides of the sleepover coin.

Are you ready for this? Is your child? When it comes to your child’s first sleepover, sometimes parents are more nervous than kids -– even if it’s the kid who is going away. There is no sure way to know if your child is ready, but if you listen to your child’s behavior rather than your own anxieties, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea.

If your child is very social, used to traveling, and adaptable to different routines, they will probably do great at a sleepover. But kids who crave their own structure and routine might find the concept a bit more challenging.

Some kids as young as five like the idea of going to a close friend’s house, while others aren’t ready for a full-blown sleepover party until they are 11 or 12. It’s best to wait for your child to request sleepover privileges rather than offering it up as a suggestion.

If You're the Receiving Parent...

If you’re worried whether it’s the right time, or anxious that your child is asking for sleepovers soon, make the first move and introduce your child to the sleepover concept by hosting one at your house. This will allow your child to have a test-run without leaving the comforts of home.

Ask your child to invite one or two close friends who have been to your house before. Limiting the number of kids for the inaugural sleepover is essential – and two guests is plenty. Make a plan with your child about exactly what you’re going to do, from what you’ll eat, to what movies or games you’ll play, when the kids need to be in bed, and what you’re having for breakfast. While it’s not essential for the kids to follow a schedule while they’re at your house, it’s good to get an idea of what your child wants to do so you can inform the other parents.

Next, call the invitee’s parents to ask permission, answer any questions about the evening’s itinerary and ask about any relevant sleeping, eating, or (heaven forbid) bed-wetting habits.

Knowledge is power. Spending a few minutes talking to parents ahead of time will give you a better idea of how your child’s friends will behave. Being direct and honest about your own kid – good or bad – will encourage other parents to do the same.

You can also schedule a time for the kids to be dropped off and picked up from your house, or offer an opt-out policy in case one of the kids coming over isn’t quite ready for an overnight, either.

Stock up on extra toiletries, fresh sheets, pajamas, and other essential sleepover supplies in case somebody forgets something important. Let the kids know verbally that you’re the parent in charge and they can come to you with problems. Set some ground rules for the house too, so that kids will be on the same page with your child.

If You're the Sending Parent...

Think your child is ready for that first night away? It’s time to put the shoe on the other foot and become the parent who gives up control. Talk to your child first about your expectations, their expectations, and any anxiety or fears you both may have. Ask your child to call you before they go to bed to verbally confirm that they want to stay.

If the hosting parent hasn’t called you directly for the invite, reach out to introduce yourself and reveal any special issues your child might have or special routines they want to follow. Make sure the parent knows that your child is supposed to call home before bed.

Be sure to pack everything your young one needs for a good night’s sleep: a night light, special blanket or stuffed animal, toothbrush, favorite pajamas, and so on. If your child is used to something specific at night, like a water bottle by the bed or music to fall asleep, either pack it along or let the child know they’ll have to do without it. It’s best to avoid surprises.

It’s also important for your child to know that they can call you to come home at any time. It might not be pleasant to come pick up the child in the middle of the night or have your first date night in forever shattered by a call from the little one, but it’s important for your child to know that you’re always reachable and they don’t have to make it through a whole night their first time out of the gate.

What’s most important, after all, is that you and your child enjoy time apart. After all, isn’t adult life just one big sleepover away from Mom’s house?

How do you plan on preparing your child for their first sleepover? Share your ideas and stories with us!

Tags : everyday celebrations   sleepover   

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