As your child matures, they’ll inevitably start asking for sleepovers with their friends. Hosting your child’s first sleepover can be a memorable and exciting experience for both your child and their friends, but it also comes with its fair share of responsibilities and considerations for sleep. To ensure that the sleepover is safe, fun, and stress-free, here’s our guide on what to consider when hosting your child’s first sleepover, as well as prepping for your child to attend their first sleepover.
Hosting a Sleepover
Establish some ground rules
Establish a few ground rules with your child before the sleepover begins. Discuss topics like bedtime, screen time limits, appropriate behavior, and any specific guidelines you’d like to set. It’s important to make sure your child and their friends understand the boundaries and expectations for the evening. Don’t forget to make it fun though. For example, when it’s time to brush teeth maybe there is a fun song you play and everyone can dance while brushing their teeth! When it’s time to sleep, perhaps you play a bedtime mindfulness story for everyone to hear. There are many ways to enforce a schedule without making it feel arduous.
Prepare a Safe and Comfortable Sleeping Area
Check-in with parents ahead of time about each child’s preferences and needs for sleep. It’s best if they feel you’re going to make their child feel as comfortable as possible and will respect their needs. If some need a night light but others don’t, perhaps offer sleep masks. Make sure to set up a designated area for the kids to sleep, such as sleeping bags, air mattresses, or a cozy corner with blankets and pillows. Ensure the space is safe, well-ventilated, and free of any potential hazards. Make sure there’s enough room for everyone to sleep comfortably and possibly add some visual barriers to allow for privacy or separated spaces. If you have a WIFI video monitor, you can set that up in the room and allow all the parents access to it if you feel this would be helpful for everyone to feel comfortable (both parents and children).
Attending a Sleepover
Address Sleepover Safety First
Before allowing your child to attend a sleepover, we strongly recommend you have a conversation about safety in place and have a plan. If you aren’t sure where to start, read The 5 Things You Need To Know For Safe Sleepovers by Beth Robinson, author of the book “Protecting Children from Predators”. Safety is our number 1 priority at Good Night Sleep Site and asparents, so this article will provide you with valuable insights to consider before agreeing to any sleepover.
Manage Sleepover Feelings
Your child will probably have many mixed emotions about their first sleepover. Excitement, anticipation, and anxiety are all common feelings leading up to the event. Your child may start showing some of these feelings ahead of time so remember to listen to your child with warm attention, making room for anything they feel like bringing up. As your child expresses their intense emotions, your calm listening will provide reassurance that their feelings are valid and that they have the capability to overcome what they’re experiencing. Often times they don’t need you to fix anything or offer advice. The power of just listening will bring them what they need, and they will feel better about asking you for what they need afterward. Click here for more on how to do this.
Create a Sleepover Game Plan
Things may come up when your child is attending the sleepover so the more prepared they are, the better. Sit down together and create a game plan about how to address the following common situations. Additionally, speaking with the host’s parents can help clarify any specific concerns and ensure your child’s comfort and safety during the sleepover.
A child may feel anxious about being away from the comfort of their own home, especially if it’s their first time sleeping over at a friend’s house. Decide on what the course of action should be for your child. They can ask to call home and have a quick chat with you. You can write them a note to read before bed or pack their favourite book they can look at if they want to feel more at home. You’ll also want to agree on potentially picking them up if they feel uncomfortable at any time. When the fun is over and it’s time to sleep, that could be a good time for your child to go home.
2. Fear of the Unknown:
The unfamiliarity of the host’s home, their routines, and their family members can be intimidating. Children may worry about what to expect. If you can find out more from the host family about what the activities will be and share with your child, the less anxious they will be.
3. Sleep Space Familiarity:
If your child prefers a night light or white noise machine, make sure to chat with the host in advance about how the sleep space will be set up. Your child might be able to bring their own objects from home to help them feel more like they are in their own environment.
4. Peer Pressure:
Children might worry about fitting in, getting along with their host and their friends, and feeling accepted during the sleepover. Someone might bring up a game or activity that your child doesn’t want to participate in and it should be their choice. Talk about this in advance and come up with several options for your child if this situation comes up. Click here for more information on the type of solutions children can seek out if they’re feeling pressured. It’s best to also ask the host to keep tabs on the children and check in often in order to ensure everyone is having fun.
For some children, bedwetting can be a significant concern when attending a sleepover. They may worry about potential embarrassment or having to explain the situation to their host. You can purchase a product like Ninjamas that are made specifically to act like a pull-up but yet discreet enough to be like underwear if your child is concerned.
Don’t Forget About Your Own Feelings!
Sleepovers often bring up our own memories and feelings about them so as mentioned in our Improve your Tween’s Sleep in 4 Unconventional Steps blog post, make sure to take some time to sit with them. Begin by checking in with how you felt during sleepovers, what they were like, if they made you anxious, and why. Journal your feelings or better yet, find someone who you can share them with. Releasing those feelings before you help guide your child will make a world of difference in how present you can be for them.
Hosting your child’s first sleepover can be a fun and memorable experience for everyone involved. By considering the factors mentioned, you can ensure that the sleepover is safe, enjoyable, and stress-free. Remember to keep an open line of communication with your child, their friends, and the other parents to make it a positive and memorable event. With proper planning and a welcoming attitude, you’ll create lasting memories for your child and their friends.