‘Pleeeeeeease mummy, I want to go. I want a sleepover and midnight feast!’
Once your child starts making close friends, soon they will be asking for a sleepover and this is something of a childhood milestone. But when is the right time to let your child sleep over at a friend’s house for the first time? Is there a right or wrong time and how can you ensure it is a good experience?
Naturally, as parents or carers, we want to keep our kids safe and happy, so we talked to Dr Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and founder of The Good Play Guide and Kavin Wadhar, parenting expert and founder of KidCoachApp about sleepovers.
As parents or caregivers, what can we do to ensure sleepover success?
Sleepovers are big events for children and the experts advise that the preparation starts early. Some children may be ready as early as seven or eight but for others, this might be later.
‘It starts years and months before often without parents realising. In particular, how to educate children to make the right decision, shape their independence and teach them how to conduct themselves as their own person,’ Kavin says.
‘When children have reached a certain level of maturity, usually from around eight onwards, that’s when it’s time to look out for those signs.’
Dr Amanda adds that they will need to be fairly independent when away from you before they are ready for their first sleepover.
‘This includes being able to get themselves ready for bed, as well as washed and dressed in the morning,’ she explains.
‘They also need to be emotionally ready to be away from you so they don’t get too scared, upset, or anxious. They need to be able to ask their friend’s mum or dad for help if needed and feel relatively comfortable around their friend’s family.’
Build up to it
If your child has not spent time away from you, try to give your child a chance to spend the night without you somewhere they know well, such as their grandparent’s house. Then, if possible, have a sleepover with just one friend at your house.
Dr Amanda says: ‘This will mean your child is still in a familiar environment when they experience a sleepover for the first time – from staying up late chatting, to bedtime routines.’
Kavin says it is useful to build a routine into the evening, so children know what to expect.
‘If you are hosting, ensure children know a rough schedule so they know what’s to come for the evening ahead.’
Open dialogue and communication are crucial and it is essential to reinforce the idea of healthy boundaries, such as teaching your child the Talk PANTS rules from the NSPCC.
‘It’s good to make sure your child knows what healthy boundaries are, so they can keep themselves safe,’ advises Dr Amanda.
‘For example, the “underwear rule” is a simple way to help children understand where they should and should not be touched by someone else. They also need to know they can talk to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, so it’s important to validate any feelings or worries they have.’
As a parent, you may also have some of your own concerns and you should also feel free to chat with the other parents about any worries you may have. It is important that your child and the friend’s parent have your phone number so they can call you, whether that’s just to say goodnight or because they want to come home.
Dr Amanda says: ‘Be prepared to pick your child up if they’re struggling, even if it’s in the middle of the night, as this shows they can trust you to do so again in the future.’
Keep routines familiar
Dr Amanda advises to let your child take some home comforts, such as a favourite teddy with them.
‘Fabrics such as soft toys, pillows, and blankets will hold the familiar smell of home so can be very comforting when your child spends the night away,’ she explains.
‘Depending on the age of your child, they may worry about seeming “babyish” in front of their friend. It’s good to be sensitive to this while ensuring they have what they need when they need it. For instance, they might not want their friends knowing they have a cuddly toy in bed, so hide it in a pillow so they can be a bit more discrete about it if they want to.’
She also says to try to keep other aspects of their sleep routine familiar.
‘When staying at a friend’s house, about what your child’s normal sleeping routine is,’ she says.
‘If they have a glass of water at night, you could send them with a water bottle. If they need a night light, discuss this with the other parent and see what options there are.
‘Discuss with the other parent where your child will sleep. You may want to send them with their own sleeping bag and something to sleep on top of if there aren’t any spare or foldout beds at their friend’s house.’
Adding: ‘Remember, very little actual sleeping happens at sleepovers – so be prepared for a happy but tired youngster when they come home the next day!’
Advice from parents:
Alex, is co-founder of Hoxby and dad to Olivia, five, says: ‘We felt Olivia was too young for a sleepover at five years old, but she assured us it was what she wanted and that she was ready to spend the night with her best friend. This would be her first sleepover without a family member and so we needed to prepare her and ourselves accordingly. She went for play dates at the friend’s house each week in the build-up so that it became a familiar environment and so that she felt comfortable with the parents.
‘At every stage we talked about how she felt about the impending sleepover and if she had any questions. We made sure she knew what her schedule would be when she was there and we explained to her where we would be at each stage so she felt informed and supported. We also focussed on the good stuff- things she would be excited about so that she felt positive about the experience – she was informed but not afraid. She is a trustworthy and very mature five-year-old, but I felt sick to my stomach when she left our home in her friend’s car. What if she needed us and we weren’t there for her?’
‘We let her go because we wanted to support her and show that we trust her judgement. She had a brilliant time and came home a stronger person for the experience. We became stronger parents for the experience too. Letting go feels tough, but by talking through the details objectively and adopting a positive attitude we were able to prepare our girl for her first very memorable sleepover.’
Antonia, 42 is co-founder of Koala & Joe, and mum to Isabella, eight and Freddie, five says:
‘If you are allowing a midnight feast (always the highlight of any sleepover) I would suggest potentially removing the clock from the sleepover bedroom. My daughter’s ‘midnight’ feast was all over by 9pm and they were none the wiser!’
Dee, 39, founder of Wicked Creative Copy and Content Writing, and mum to Olivia and Roman says:
‘My daughter wanted a sleepover for her 12th birthday. She’d just started at secondary school and struggled to narrow down which friends she wanted to invite, so I ended up with eight 11 and 12-year-old girls, plus her, her 8-year-old brother and his best friend – ELEVEN kids sleeping over.
‘I ordered a huge takeaway, plus got a load of snacks that I set up in the kitchen. The girls all stayed in the living room, top and tailing on sofas and airbeds around the Christmas tree, while the boys stayed in my son’s room.
‘My husband went out for the night since he has less patience than me, and I set up camp in my room for the night! The kids were all brilliantly behaved, watched movies, sang karaoke and did face masks while the boys played on the PlayStation. While I wouldn’t necessarily do another one in a hurry, it was much easier than I expected!’
Denial of responsibility! insideheadline is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.