Sometime between the ages of six and eight, your child will probably start asking to spend the night at a friend’s house. But even a child who’s really excited by the idea of a sleepover may not be quite ready to take this step. How do you know if the time is right? Here are four questions from parenting speaker and author Kathy Lynn to help you decide: Has she spent a night away from home at a close relative’s house and felt comfortable? Does she know the family where she’ll be staying and comfortable with her friend’s parents? Does she want to go? How well does she handle other separations?
A child who has difficulty falling asleep on her own at night or is reticent about spending a whole day with another family is probably not ready for a sleepover yet. In this case, you might suggest a compromise: The two friends could have a pyjama movie night with a late pickup.
If you decide to go ahead with an overnighter, be sure to send her off with some comforts of home. Her blanket or the stuffie she likes to cuddle will help her feel more secure when it’s time for lights out. You might also include a book or video she enjoys that she can share with her friend. Then plan to stay in. The moment of truth tends to come when it’s time for bed.
“My daughter called at 11 p.m. to be picked up,” says Ellen Hanley* of her nine-year-old daughter, Sophia’s, first sleepover. “What I wasn’t prepared for was how upset she was once we left. ‘She’ll never ask me to stay over again. She’ll tell everyone at school that I’m a baby!’ The drama started up again first thing in the morning, so we practised what she was going to say and then she called her friend. I assured my daughter that if she was honest with her, her friend would understand.”
If you do get the ‘“come save me” call, says Lynn, be matter-of-fact and don’t grill her about it. “Pick her up, give her a hug and say, ‘Maybe next time.’”
*Name changed by request
This article was originally published on February 2012.