While there is no definitive age that children become ready for a sleepover, the first one is a big step in their social development. It’s important to take certain steps that will help ease them into their first overnight stay at another home. Determining your child’s readiness for a sleepover means that you must look at their social maturity. Remember that every child develops at their own unique rate. Here are a few tips to help determine if your child is ready for their first sleepover and how to help them prepare.
Try hosting first to assess your child’s social skills
By hosting one of your child’s friends for a sleepover, you can get an idea of how your child will tolerate spending that much time with a friend. This will help to give you an idea of whether they are ready or not. If your child quickly grows tired of their friend, or if they start bickering a lot, they may need some more time before sleeping at a friend’s house themselves. Social development will eventually lead your child to have the patience to spend longer stretches of time with friends with minimal conflict. Once they get to this point, it’s a good sign that they’re ready for a sleepover.
A successful sleepover is reliant on your child having independence, in the form of being comfortable enough on their own to be away from you overnight. If they’re still hopping into your bed most nights and need assistance with their bedtime tasks such as brushing teeth and putting pajamas on, they likely aren’t ready yet.
Attempt a family sleepover first
If your child has a family member, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, whom you trust and they’re very close with, it’s a good idea to try having them spend the night with this family member before trying a sleepover at a friend’s house. This is a great way to ease them into being away from you overnight without the added stress of having friends involved. If your child has already had a successful night away at a family members home then they may be ready for a sleepover with friends.
Pay attention to how your child interacts with other adults
It’s important that your child is comfortable asking other adults for help before they attend their first sleepover. Pay attention to how they interact with other adults. If your child communicates well with other adults, then this is a good sign that they will feel comfortable at a sleepover since they won’t be intimidated by the host parents.
What’s your child’s take on it?
One of the best considerations is whether your child is excited for a sleepover. If they’re scared, anxious, or reluctant, then they likely aren’t ready yet. But, if they’re excited and antsy to have a sleepover with their friends, then this is also a good sign that they are ready.
Take it on a case-by-case basis
Every scenario is different and your child may do well at one sleepover while they may not feel as comfortable at another one. Take into consideration how many kids will be attending the sleepover, how well your child knows these friends, and whether you feel comfortable with the parents. It’s definitely helpful to start your child with a one-on-one sleepover, to help ease them into it, rather than attending a full-on slumber party right away. If you’ve never met the family before, definitely take some time to talk with them about expectations, or you could even meet up with them ahead of time. It is important that you and your child feel comfortable with where they will be staying.
How to help your child get ready for their first sleepover
Talking with your child ahead of time is a great way to gauge whether or not they’re ready to be away from you for a full night. You can also talk with them about what to expect when they stay at another home and ask them about what their fears are, if they have any. It’s important that you communicate with the parent that will be hosting your child to get any questions answered that could help ease your child’s anxiety, such as where they’re going to sleep. Try not to ask too much of the host but be sure to share any important information such as fears that your child has, any allergies that they suffer from, or special bedtime routines that they’re used to.
Make a plan
In talking with your child, come up with a plan that will help them feel more comfortable, such as a bedtime phone call or Facetime with you. If your child doesn’t yet have their own phone, make sure that you have exchanged phone numbers with the host parents so that you can easily get into contact with each other. Remind your child that if they need you, you’re only a phone call away.
Be prepared to pick them up if need be
It’s incredibly common for children to call their parents in the middle of the night when they’re at their first sleepover. Be prepared for a late night pick up and understand that this is perfectly common. You don’t want to make your child feel like they have no choice but to stay at their friend’s house if they’re feeling scared or uncomfortable. Giving them the chance to come home helps build trust and give them a sense of safety and security.
Stick with your own values
Don’t ever feel bad for declining a sleepover invitation if you don’t feel entirely comfortable with the host family. Some parents opt to avoid sleepovers altogether. At the end of the day, every parent has the choice to parent in their own way so it’s truly up to you.
Sleepovers are a great way for your child to establish independence, but it is important to not rush the process. As with every aspect of parenting, you should ease your child into this change and take steps to ensure their readiness beforehand.