Letting your child go on their first sleepover is a very big step for parents. It requires trust of both your child and the household where they will be. What should you consider before that first invitation comes in?

Is your child ready?

  1. Has your child already stayed overnight somewhere without you (perhaps with other family members) without getting scared or crying?
  2. Does your child know a potential sleepover friend well, and do they get along on playdates?
  3. Can your child get themselves ready for bed—brushing teeth, putting on pajamas—without adult help?
  4. Can your child generally get through the night without nightmares or crying?
  5. Can your child be away from you for several hours at a time without getting anxious?
  6. Does your child do well when socializing with other kids’ families or eating their food?
  7. Can your child ask other adults, besides you, for help?
  8. Is your child excited by the prospect of a sleepover?

Ways to help your child get ready:

1. Offer to host. Let your child have the first sleepover on their turf, or do a trial run where they eat dinner at a friends house and do common sleepover activities, but go home before bed dressed in pajamas. It is best to start out one-on-one instead of with a crowd.

2. Ask questions of the other parents and share with your child

a. What is planned?
b. Where will they be sleeping?
c. Who will be in the home?
d. Are there pets in the home?
e. What food will be served?

3. Talk about what to expect.

a. Talk about inappropriate
touching
b. Teach them to say “no” if
something doesn’t feel right.
c. Talk about weapon safety – do
not touch a weapon and if
someone else in the house
brings one out, leave immediately.
d. Teach them to not take any
medications that they aren’t
familiar with and not to drink
alcohol if it is offered or introduced.

4. Help everyone get along. Talk to your child about compromise. If you are hosting, go out of your way to avoid conflict between the children, and try to make the other child comfortable.

 

Are you ready?

Your child may be ready, but are you? Many parents struggle with the question of whether they’re uneasy about their child’s safety, or they’re unable to face this next stage in their child’s life.

A parent’s top concern should be the safety and well-being of their child. If this means a no-sleepover rule, so be it. If this means strict rules around sleepovers, go for it. But if you’re considering allowing your child to go to one for the first time, try the following:

  1. Get personal with the friend’s parents. If you haven’t already, create a clear channel of communication with the parents. Even better, spend some time with them. Knowing their routines and values will give you an idea of what to expect. Find out if there are guns in the house, and if so, are they locked in a safe.
  2. Know who’s in the household. Perhaps the child’s parents are trustworthy, but who else will be around your child? A full house may be a fun house, but older siblings or out-of-town guests may not align with what you’re familiar or comfortable with. Check the sex offender registry. Know if there is a sex offender in the home or in one of the neighboring houses.
  3. Be clear on sleeping arrangements. Knowing how the night will unfold, and end, is important. Ask what dinner will be, what the activities will be, and make sure he or she is sleeping somewhere safe.
  4. Keep communicating. Stay in contact with the parents. Make sure they know you’re interested and available. You want to know they are making your child a priority and that they won’t force your child to stay in fear of disturbing you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to say no. Trust your gut. If you feel uneasy about any sleepover situation, always feel empowered to keep your kids at home. Some parents may pressure others to appease the wants of their own children. But only you know what’s best for your child. And that’s OK.
  6. Give your child a cell phone for the night. If your child can easily contact you, it may ease both of your minds. Make sure your child knows how to use it.

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