I recently received this text from Mel, my friend and co-author of this parenting column. Since my kids are a little older than hers, there are actually times when I have answers for her. Of course, I’m not always sure they’re the right answers, but I digress.
Sleepovers. When I was young, these overnight adventures were a rarity for the grade school set. Back then, they were usually connected to special circumstances like birthdays, cousins or somebody’s parents desperately in need of free childcare. For this reason, I was very surprised when my daughter started receiving overnight invitations as early as kindergarten. (Seriously, why would anyone want to increase the number of tiny humans in their house at night?)
As with so many other developmental milestones, sleepovers seems to be starting earlier and earlier for kids these days. But it’s up to you, as the parent, to decide when it’s going to happen. Is your child ready? Are you?
Let’s start with the basics. Does your child have an elaborate bedtime routine? Does he/she feel the need to check in with you during the night? Are there any bedwetting or other health issues (like asthma or serious food allergies) that could create an uncomfortable or risky situation for your child?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to postpone the big event. If, on the other hand, you answered no to everything, then your child might actually be ready. Here are just a few tips to make the sleepover a positive experience for everyone.
Get to know the host parents. Yes, I realize that this advice is extremely obvious but it’s also extremely important. How long have you known this family? Have you ever actually walked through the home and property where your child will be staying the night? Is the household’s parenting method similar to your own?
Make sure your child will be safe. You’ve got some hard questions to ask but no one ever said parenting was easy. And you’d never forgive yourself if anything happened because you wanted to avoid an awkward situation.
- Are there guns in the house? How are they stored?
- Does the family have any pets? Are they friendly?
- What level of supervision will the kids have inside and outside?
Don’t hesitate to make requests. If you want your child to go to bed by a certain time, say so. If you want to speak with him or her before everyone goes to bed, express that upfront. The way in which the host family responds to your wishes will be telling … and will either provide you with much-needed reassurance or an immediate reason to hold off on the whole thing.
Pack with your child. Doing it together ensures that everything necessary is included and it also allows your child to make some choices. Maybe he doesn’t want to wear his Mickey Mouse pajamas in front of his friend. Maybe she wants to bring an extra lovey in case the first lovey gets lonely. A sleepover is a mature experience so it’s nice to offer your child a little bit of control here.
For my money, there is no amount of preparation that is too much for a child’s first sleepover. It’s imperative that everyone go into it as well-informed and relaxed as possible. Because it’s an important first step in nurturing his or her independence from home. (Did I mention that I hate sleepovers?
How did Tucker do on his first big adventure? I think that smile says it all, don’t you?
Michele is the founder and editor of Old Dog New Tits, an award-winning blog about whatever craziness crosses her family’s path. She is a freelance writer for various websites, magazines and newspapers and is always looking for new projects. She hopes to publish some of her independent work in the near future. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Arts Administration. As a married mother of two from New Orleans, she is actively involved in her children’s lives and has served as everything from Room Mom to Brownie Leader to even PTA President. She loves cheese almost as much as her children and thought it imperative that she include that fact in her biography.