My daughter was ten the first time she had a sleep over at someone else’s house. That might sound late to you. It’s not because I’m an overprotective, helipcopter mother (though I’m not exactly without guilt there). It’s because she didn’t join our family until she was nine-years-old when we adopted her from the foster care system.
We were all nervous for that first sleep over. As a foster child, she hadn’t been allowed to go to friend’s homes, so this was new territory for all of us. Here’s what we did to prepare.
Made acquaintances with the other child’s family. My daughter brought home our little friend’s phone number. I called Mom to introduce myself and invite her daughter to our house for a play date.
Had the other child to our house for play dates and sleepovers. Spending time with her friend at our house made our daughter more comfortable and let me see how the girls interacted. I was able to discretely coach my daughter when I noticed her struggling a bit with the social interaction.
Explained our situation to the other mother. I let her friend’s mom know our unusual family situation. This helped her understand my nervousness and our daughter’s separation anxiety.
Let her go to the other child’s house for an afternoon. We started out small with an afternoon play date. This let her test the waters of being away from home in a shorter time frame.
Packed her overnight bag together, including a couple comfort items. We picked out her favorite pajamas, a change of clothes and toothbrush. She picked a stuffed animal to bring. We also included a couple of items that brought her added comfort – a family photo album, one of Dad’s big t-shirts, my favorite bracelet and a couple granola bars in case she got hungry and was afraid to ask for a snack.
Assured her she could call home anytime. We told her she could call us anytime, as often as she needed to. We were also clear that we’d come and get her even in the middle of the night if she wanted to come home.
Made concrete plans and stuck to them. We made plans to drop her off at six in the evening and to pick her up at nine the next morning. And then we did just that. We weren’t even a minute late.
She called home about a dozen times during that first sleep over, but she made it through the night. She’s gone on to have many others and even go to sleep away camp.