Do you remember going on sleepovers as a kid? They were the bane of my mother’s existence when I was 10 or 11 years old; if I wasn’t staying up all night at someone else’s house on the weekends, chances were that there were a gaggle of giggling girls disturbing her sleep! Then the next day, all of our mothers had to deal with cranky, sleep-deprived pre-teens. I have to hand it to her; she handled the situation with grace, most of the time.
Aside from sleeping at Grandma’s house, my kids haven’t had a lot of experience with sleepovers yet. We have had several kids sleep over at our home, with varying degrees of success: Some have successfully spent the night, while others have called home at 11:00 or so, asking to be picked up. The very few times that my kids have done it, they’ve managed to stay all night, but said later that they’d wished they were home. And, truth be told, I also wished that they were home; it’s hard to send your babies to someone else’s house overnight!
Parental anxieties aside, how you can you tell if your child is ready for a sleepover with friends? Here are a few tips:
- Has he successfully spent the night at a relative’s house? If he calls crying from a favorite auntie’s house, then he’s probably not ready to spend the night with a friend, where the rules and overall atmosphere will be different from what he’s used to. On the other hand, if he handles a weekend with the grandparents like a pro, then he might be ready to navigate the trickier terrain of a friend-sleepover.
- Does he wake up at night looking for reassurance? If your child is a frequent night-waker, he may feel frightened at someone else’s house if he rises in the middle of the night and you’re not there. Then again, sometimes having a friend in the room will provide all of the assurance he needs, and he’ll fall back to sleep.
- Does he know how to call you? Although his friend’s parents can certainly help him make a phone call, he might feel too shy to ask. Be sure he knows that he can call you without asking permission, if necessary, and that you will come to get him if he decides he’d rather go home. He should know your cellphone and home number; write them down for him to put in his bag, particularly if his friend lives in a different town, where he might have to dial the area code first.
- Do you know the family? This is a biggie for me; I realize that as my kids go through their teens and beyond, I won’t be there to check out every situation ahead of time, but for now, my comfort level rests in knowing who’s responsible for them. Your child will pick up on your anxieties; if you don’t know the friend’s parents, then tell your child that he can spend the night after you’ve gotten to know them and found out a bit about their home and rules.
A first sleepover is just another milestone that our kids need to experience on the path toward independence. As long as he knows that you’re available for him day or night, whether he’s home or not, a few false starts won’t hurt. If you think he’s ready, then give it a try!