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The Sleepover: 3 Tips To Decide If You and Your Child are Ready

24 Feb 2014 – 02:00 AM EST

The sleepover. Sooner or later your child will either want to have one at home or go to a friends. As parents we are constantly walking a fine line. We want to give our children freedom yet there needs to be clearly established boundaries. We want them to have friends and have fun but we want them to be comfortable and safe. A child’s first sleepover is a big deal and it’s not a decision to be made lightly. If you’re unsure whether you or your child are ready, here are three things to think about before you say yes to the sleepover:

  1. Does your child experience separation anxiety? Think about the last time you were away from your child for a significant amount of time. School and play dates don’t count. But if you travel for work or if you’ve gone away for a weekend – you and your child have been separated over night. How did they hold up during the separation? Did they cry or have trouble going to sleep? Sleep overs – even if it’s just down the block – can create anxiety in children. As excited as they may be to spend the night at a friends house, they may still miss you and the familiarity of their own home.
  2. Think about your child’s night time/sleep habits. Do they have difficulty falling asleep, wet the bed, sleep walk, crawl into your bed or raid the kitchen in the middle of the night? Any of these scenarios could be uncomfortable for another family to handle. You may want to wait until your child is emotionally and physically capable of spending the night away from home.
  3. How well do you know your child’s friend(s) and their family? If you’ve never met the friend or the parents, it’s a good idea to set up a few casual meet and greets before you set up an overnight stay. This isn’t an opportunity to judge, but a chance to engage and get to know the people your child wants to spend time with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions but don’t be too invasive. (For example, if the parent reveals they are divorced, there is no reason to ask why.) And if/when you say yes to the sleepover, ask to visit their home and see where the kids will sleep.

When it comes to sleepovers there is no ‘appropriate’ age of when a child should be ready – it’s based solely on the individual family.