A child’s first sleepover can be a stressful experience for parents and kids alike. While you’re entrusting your child into someone else’s care–possibly even someone you don’t know that well, you child has to navigate anxieties around eating and sleeping in an unfamiliar place and being away from you for the first time. You can help ease everyone’s nerves by following these simple steps for a successful first sleepover.
Is Your Child Ready for a Sleepover? Follow Their Lead.
Is your child already a pro at road-trips and airport check in’s? If they’ve been traveling with you for some time, visiting friends and family, sleeping in other people’s homes and in hotel rooms, they’re more likely to be comfortable during their first sleepover.
If your child thrives on routine (especially bedtime rituals), a sleepover might make them uncomfortable. In this case, try to let your child take the lead. If she is begging to spend the night at a friend’s house, she’s probably ready. If she doesn’t respond enthusiastically to a classmate’s invitation to sleep over, she may need a little more time to mentally prepare for a sleepover. You can also ease a worried child’s nerves about a sleepover by offering to host one of their friends at your home first.
In addition to offering to host your child’s first sleepover, you can also give them opportunities to experience spending time and sleeping in a new environment with people who are trusted, familiar, and that make them feel comfortable.
Does your child adore his grandparents? Start by letting him spend the night with them. Plus, family members are more likely to be patient with your child if he has trouble getting to sleep and requests 10 glasses of water throughout the night! You may also try planning an overnight family vacation with friends who have children who are close in age to yours.
Talk Through Potential Concerns With Your Child
You never know for sure unless you ask. Maybe you think your child has a crippling case of separation anxiety when in reality she is afraid that her friends will tell scary stories during a sleepover or that her hosts will force her to eat beets!
Help her talk through her fears and let her know that she can always call you if she wants to talk or go home early. This is a great opportunity to empower your child to work through her anxieties and make choices that are best for her.
Be careful to prepare your child for a sleepover without escalating her anxiety. If you only talk about worst-case scenarios (wetting the bed, a mean older sibling, a less than desirable dinner, a friend who starts to act cruelly) you may make the potential for discomfort so terrifying that she never wants to go on a sleepover!
Instead, try to balance the conversation with fun things that she can expect on her first sleepover like pizza and ice cream, staying up late, dance parties, and the chance to use a new sleeping bag!
Clearly Communicate Expectations with the Other Parents
While your child may be familiar with the family that has invited him over for a sleepover through school or an extracurricular activity, make sure that you take the time to talk with the parents to make sure you are on the same page.
Whoever is hosting the sleepover should be able to give the other family the run-down on what will happen that night. It’s as simple as, “We’ll go for burgers after school, work on a craft project when we get home, make popcorn and watch a cartoon, and go to bed.” Articulating a plan allows parents to advise each other of their respective children’s quirks like allergies, movie restrictions, and fear or obsession with pets!
Ultimately, try to relax! Sleepovers are a fun and important part of childhood. Allow your child to feel some independence, learn to make her own decisions, and create memories that will last her a lifetime!
Thank you Bryn Huntpalmer for contributing this post. Bryn is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an Editor for Modernize and nurtures her HGTV obsession. In addition to regularly contributing to Home Decor and Design websites around the web, her writing can be found on Lifehacker, About.com and on her personal blog Her Own Wings.