This week’s #TuesdayTip covers the
dreaded beloved slumber parties. I provide tips for a more successful sleepover, and help you determine if your child is ready (assuming you are).
When Is My Child Ready For A Sleepover?
If you didn’t pick up on my earlier sarcasm, many parents definitely have negative associations with sleepovers. Parents tend to equate it with an all-night rave for kids and hell for the hosts. No matter what age the kids are, there’s a good possibility they won’t be getting much sleep. But what age is appropriate for sleepovers? Well unfortunately there’s no hard and fast rule behind it. It’s all based on your child’s (and their friends’) readiness. As parents, we deal with the related anxiety, sleeplessness, and (e.g., “who the hell is my kid going to be staying with??” or “who the hell are these kids staying with me??”). These are all valid concerns, and the bright side is that you have the control to determine the best course of action.
You know your child better than anyone. You know how well he/she adapts to new environments, long playdates, and routines. But when you’re making the evaluation, don’t forget to consider the child’s interest level. If he/she seems a bit confused or intimidated by the idea, then there’s a good chance he/she isn’t ready. However, if your child is begging you, they maybe ready. If you’re looking for something to compare against, kindergarten-age is a common point many parents feel their child is ready and able to tackle a night away from home.
Tips For A Successful Sleepover
These tips come from Lisa Murphy’s post, 10 Tips For a Successful Sleepover, in Today’s Parent.
Start With a Half Sleepover: This means, drop your child off with pajamas, and pick up later in the evening, like 9 pm. Or, if you’re hosting, have the guests picked up late.
Provide a Detailed Invitation: Expectations and full-disclosure are key. Include in your invitation: drop-off and pick-up times, what to bring, if you’re providing meals, supervision, activities planned, and contact information. If your child is the guest, let the hosts know of any possible issues, like bed-wetting or fears.
Start Small: Limit the number of kids invited. I would start with one child, but that’s me. Murphy’s tips suggest having an even number, including the host.
Have an Opt-Out Policy: Make sure your child knows, or your guests, that they can call you/their parents at any point in time if they wish to go home.
Don’t Introduce New Personalities: One parent in Murphy’s article suggests not introducing new personalities until you’ve had a play date with the newbie first. Because, as Murphy’s article blatantly states, if you don’t like the kid during the day, you definitely won’t in the middle of the night!
Have Other Activities On Hand: In case not all kids want to participate in a planned activity, you may want to have books, magazines, or whatever else available so the child doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Murphy suggests planning an activity everyone can play, unlike video games, where only one or two can participate.
Have a Secret Code: Come up with a discreet code with your child to use when things get out of control or someone is feeling left out. For example, Murphy suggests the code, “What time is it?” This way you can smoothly step in and mitigate the drama. Keep in mind the age of your child when doing this though. It probably wouldn’t work with my two preschoolers who think “secret” means “let’s tell the person in an even LOUDER voice than normal.” They would probably use the code, and then turn to their friend and say, “That’s our secret code, and it means you’re getting out of hand!”
Refrain from saying, “Come and get your child whenever”: In case the kids have a bad night, and they’re tired, it’ll be time to go home. Murphy recommends 10:00 am, and no later. Otherwise, you may have your guest’s parents taking advantage of your offer and rolling up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, at 5 pm the next day.
My Two Cents
Call The Parents, Or Meet Them, Ahead of Time: This was something my mom used to do, and I appreciate it now. She would call my friend’s house beforehand to get a feel for the parent, if she hadn’t met her in person. If you don’t like the host, or you get a weird vibe, then trust your gut and opt out. It’s also a great way to get the low-down on bedtime, etc. if details aren’t provided. And if the other parent thinks you’re “too strict” or weird for calling, then so be it. It’s your child, and you only have his/her best interest in hand.
Explain the Process to Your Child: Explain to your child that he/she will be in a new bed, in a different house, and you’ll be picking him/her up at 10 am the next day. Reassure your child you are only one phone call away.
Have Realistic Expectations: Let’s be honest. If you’re hosting, there’s a very good chance that no matter what you do, you won’t get much sleep. So… drink an extra glass of wine with your Benadryl. KIDDING. If you’re mentally prepared for the worst, you’re more likely to be patient. Maybe plan for a lazy day the next day so you can nap and get the rest you need.
Yes, sleepovers tend to have a bad reputation, but they can be a great way for kids to bond and entertain each other. Remember you can always do a test run and see how it goes.
If you have another great tip you can add, please share it with us!