Sleepovers: Yes/No/Maybe?

With another school year coming to a close we look forward to long summer days full of play. At the end of those days comes a common refrain: “Can Sally spend the night?” or “Jimmy asked his mom, can I sleepover at his house?” rounded out with “Please mom. Pleeeeaaaase!!” For some the answer to this question comes with relative ease – if it works out with the schedule, then sure. For others the answer doesn’t come quite so easily. So the questions on my mind today are: When is the right age (and) should we or shouldn’t we allow sleepovers??

I’ll admit, when I started putting this piece together I went into research mode: looking up facts, statistics, seeing what other parents had to say. In the end what that all boiled down to was, there is no hard and fast rule, no magic number that we (parents) can apply when looking to answer these questions for/with our children. Even within the same family – unless you have a family rule saying no to sleepovers across the board, then it’s essentially going to come down to the personality of your child and your determination of whether or not he/she’s ready. Stay with us for tips to setting your kiddo up for a successful sleepover and alternative ideas if sleepovers are a no-go for your family.

Why my family doesn’t do sleepovers…For now

Since kindergarten when our girl first started being invited to sleepovers, the husband and I decided we would hold off on sleepovers. Our girl has done the grandparents/aunts and uncles-cousins sleepovers, but we’re not ready to put her out there for the friend sleepover just yet. We’re not aiming to put our girl in a bubble, but we’re okay being those parents right now. For me it comes down to two things:

  1. I’m a mom who’s big on the “what if” factor, and if I’m being honest, when it comes to my kid and her well-being, my trust only goes so far. My background is rooted in the human services field and I will never forget listening to a victims advocate explain why she banned sleepovers from her family’s existence. So, no, I don’t want her in a bubble, but I also don’t want to put her in a situation that leaves her vulnerable.
  2. Her personality. We’ve got ourselves a shy girl, she’s making strides, but it takes her forever to open up to people and I need to know she can be her own voice and not rely on someone else’s. Quite simply, we just don’t think she’s ready.

I don’t envision having the no sleepover rule for the rest of her days, but I do think we’re going to try and hold things off until those tween/early teen years (best laid plans, right?). Both the husband and I did the sleepover thing as kids and we don’t want her to miss out on that, but we’re okay hitting the pause button for now. And at the end of the day, it’s got to be okay for parents to make these choices for their family; we wouldn’t want our kids to join in on something just because “Everyone else is doing it,” so why should parents? (I feel fairly confident in saying she’ll be able to head off to college just fine despite not going on friend sleepovers in the earlier years of her childhood).

But, if you are ready to let your kiddo take the plunge into their first sleepovers, here’s some tips to setting them up for success:

  • Make an effort to get to know the other family. Don’t be shy – ask questions about the evening’s plans.
  • Take a good look at your kiddo before giving the okay, “if they’ve been separated before and handled it well,” is a good indicator your child is ready for a sleepover says Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Trust Me, Mom -- Everyone Else is Going via Parents.com.
  • "Lead up to the sleepover with briefer visits to the friends' home or smaller trips away from parents, such as shopping trips with other families or an overnight with close relatives," Dr. Berger, author of Raising Kids with Character via Parents.com, suggests.
  • Talk it out 1:1 with your child before sending them on this adventure. What worries do they have?
  • Let your child know they can call/come home if they need to. It happens, and that’s okay.
  • Do some role-playing on the ‘what ifs’ to help them prepare for some of those worries coming to fruition. What do you do if…You don’t like dinner; You need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night; You miss mom and dad; You’re uncomfortable about something…

If sleepovers are a no-go for your family, then how about these Fun Alternatives to Sleepovers from Nicolette at how does she? women sharing ideas:

  • Late night play dates: Just like a regular play date with friends, on this supervised play date, friends come in their jammies, bring junk food, games, and watch movies. Parents pick everyone up around 10:00 or a designated time.
  • Late-overs– Let older kids have their fun, supervised by an adult, then parents pick up at a designated time.
  • Night games- Being out after dark is totally cool and fun. Host a supervised night games party where older kids and teens play popular games like glow in the dark baseball, sardines (a version of hide-and-seek), ghost in the graveyard, etc.
  • Breakfast bash: Friends come in their jammies, ready for a crepes, pancakes, or a yogurt bar.

-excerpted from Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Parents Who Won’t Allow Sleepovers

At the end of the day, you know your kid best, so regardless of which side of the fence you land on…Let’s just be parents supporting parents.