At some point in every child’s life, they will be invited to spend the night at a friend’s house, be it for a sleepover or a birthday party. When your child is invited to a sleepover, the hardest part of the decision about whether or not they will go is deciding your child’s ability to handle a sleepover because the biggest problem with sleepovers is a child wanting to come home in the middle of the night.
For children, sleepovers and slumber parties are big kid events because they get to stay up late, they’re away from mom and dad and they get to spend time with their friends telling silly jokes or scary stories and laughing until they cry. Sleepovers are a big deal for children and parents alike, although for different reasons. While children think sleepovers are great, fun, big kid events, parents dread them as they’re either hosting, and therefore up til all hours supervising, or they’re sleeping with one ear open waiting for the dreaded call.
Unfortunately, like many things about childhood, there is no magic age at which children are officially OK to have or attend sleepovers. The age at which parents feel their children are ready for sleepovers is going to vary greatly because each child is different. It’s critical that you, as a parent, feel that your child is ready to go to a sleepover.
For many children, a sleepover at a friend’s house is their first time being away from home over night. As spending the night away from home for the first time can be scary, reassure your child before they go that it is fine for them to call anytime during the night if they get scared; they can also come home if they don’t want to stay at the sleepover any longer. Sleepovers are a great way to prepare your child for longer trips away from home, such as camping trips or summer camp.
Some children may feel like they need to attend slumber parties to be popular, which, if they are not yet ready to be away from home overnight, can have negative effects on your child. Make sure that your child is okay with being separated from you overnight, as sleepovers are different than spending the night at grandma’s or a close family friend’s house. Your child needs reassurance that, should they decide to stay home and sleep in their own bed, there is no shame or harm in making that decision. It is also a good idea to reassure them that, no matter what their friends say or do, whether or not they spend the night at a friend’s house is entirely up to them and you fully support whatever decision they make.
If you are uncomfortable with letting your child spend the night at a friend’s house, but you feel like they are ready for a sleepover, consider hosting a slumber party. Should you decide to host a slumber party, remember that other parents may have the same concern with their child that you have with yours. When hosting a slumber party at your house, talk to the parents of each invitee and let them know that you will do a comfort check at some point during the evening to make sure that the children are okay and that everybody still wants to stay the night. Discuss, ahead of time, the plan of action should a child decide they want to go home. Whether you choose to offer to give a child a ride home or ask the parents to retrieve their child, it is best to work the details out ahead of time so that everyone’s prepared regardless.
Part of parenting is letting go and, while you need to allow your children to take small steps toward being independent, whether, how quickly and at what age you decide to do that is between you and your child. Slumber parties and sleepovers are great steps in the right direction for everyone.