Getting Ready for Your Child’s First Sleepover
The day will come when your child will ask to go on their first sleepover. The thought might scare you more than it does your child, but with a little planning and care, the experience can be a good one for everyone. Below are a number of tips for getting ready for that first sleepover and making sure your child is ready for it too.
Try to Make Sure Your Child Is Mentally Ready for a Sleepover
Each child is different. Some children are ready to go to a sleepover much earlier than others. That’s fine. The important thing is for you to recognize when your child is ready. One sign is when they start to pester you about going to a sleepover with a friend. When it’s their idea, they are more likely to be ready.
Another way of getting a handle on whether your child is ready for a sleepover is to do a test drive and try having them go on a “late-over.” This is where they stay over late, say 10:00 or even 11:00 pm one weekend night, at a friend’s house and see how that goes. If your child does okay with the late-over, it’s more likely they'll do fine with the actual sleepover.
Get to Know the Other Parents First
Your child is one of the most precious people in the world to you. Make sure you get a chance to meet and talk to the parents before the sleepover. Try to get a feel for the parents and make sure you feel comfortable with them.
Ask them if there are any guns in their house. If there are, make sure they are always kept locked in a safe. (If there are unsecured guns in the house I would strongly advise against allowing your child to have a sleepover at that house.) Also, ask if they have a pool or a trampoline since both require supervision and some people aren’t comfortable with their children using either of these items if they aren’t personally supervising.
You should also ask if there are older siblings and what they will be doing that night and what the general plans for the evening are. If you are worried about electronics use or movies being too scary for your child, make sure you double check what the parents plan on showing first.
Finally, if your child has any fears or allergies involving animals, you’ll want to know what animals the parents have in their house and if they can contain them if needed. You should also make sure that there will be adults in the house at all times your child is there.
Is Your Child a Fussy Eater or Do They Have Allergies?
If you have a child who is a very fussy eater or who has allergies to common foods or things in common foods (like gluten), then you may want to pack some snacks or meals. That way you won’t be putting your child’s host out while they try to find something for them to eat. Make sure you also give the friend’s parent a heads up about your child’s dietary quirks so they know what to expect.
Packing for the Sleepover
When you are packing for the sleepover, make sure you have your child take all the basics they need when they go to bed. They'll need a toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, possibly hairbands, pajamas, underwear, a change of clothes, any snuggly or blanket they sleep with, and their phone if they have one. The phone is important because it is an easy way for your child and you to get in touch with each other either by calling or texting either just to make sure they feel safe or see if they need anything.
If your child has medicine they have to take at bedtime, make sure you give their friend's parent just that one dose and explain how and when the dose is to be given. If you can get away with giving the medicine at home instead, do so.
Make Sure Everyone Has Your Phone Number and You Have Theirs
It’s important that your child has your phone number memorized, especially if he doesn’t have a phone of his own. Likewise, it’s important the host's parents have your number so they can call if something comes up or they have any questions. You will need their number for the same reason.
Make a “Safeword” with Your Child
Come up with a word your child wouldn’t usually use, but one that isn’t really strange, something like “licorice.” This word is for your child to use if they are feeling uncomfortable in the situation and don't feel comfortable enough or safe enough to say that to their friend’s parents. Your child can call you, use the safe word, and you will call back and tell their friend’s family that something has come up and you have to come get them. This is an emergency tactic only.
Explain Sleepover Etiquette and Safety to Your Child
It’s important to remind your child that they have to be polite to everyone at their friend’s house when they go for a sleepover. They have to respect the rules of the host’s home, even when they’re getting an attack of the sillies from having too much fun. They are still subject to consequences for breaking rules.
However, also remind them that no one has a right to touch their body and if they see a weapon in the house that is also unacceptable. If any of the prior things occur, the child should immediately contact you with his safeword and come home. Also, if an adult or older child in the house is making them feel uncomfortable in any way, he should call home. This is why it is very important they know your phone number. Swimming in a pool or jumping on a trampoline without supervision is also not safe.
Be Prepared to Get Your Child in the Middle of the Night
Sometimes, even though your child is sure he is ready for a full-on sleepover, they wake up in the middle of the night and find out they're not quite there yet. That’s when you’ll get a call in the middle of the night for you to come get them. Besides the interruption to your sleep, don’t worry about it! This is very common with early sleepovers. Stay calm and don’t get upset with your child. Just be encouraging and know that next time will probably be better.
It’s hard sending your baby off to someone else’s house for the night. Sometimes you can’t help but think about all of the things that could go wrong, but most likely your child will have a great time having an adventure with a friend and you will find out all about it tomorrow. So, take some deep breaths and know that you’ve done what you can to make this a successful sleepover, and even if it doesn’t go as planned, there’s always next time.
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