Last week, on the Child Caring blog, I was chatting about sleepovers -- when kids are old enough to go to one, when they might want to host one, and whether parents are ever really ready at all.
My oldest kids are old pros when it comes to sleepovers, but my youngest kids (age 4 1/2 and 2 1/2) aren’t really ready yet. Which is kind of a relief, frankly, because I’m not sure I’m ready yet, either -- in terms of them sleeping somewhere else or having one (or more) of their friends sleeping over here.
But my 4 1/2-year-old is a social butterfly, and she's rapidly approaching the age of the slumber party -- if not with her little friends, then at least with her cousins and grandparents.
“I think they’re really important to kids, because it gives them just a taste of independence -- supervised independence,” Dana Loesch of Mamalogues says in a recent Momversation on kids and sleepovers. "They get just far enough from mom and dad... whether or not they’re in your house, they can stay up and eat junk food and watch video games, and they get to have their own guests and they kind of get to dictate their own time, and it’s really healthy for them to do that."
Ann Douglas, author of several books including The Mother of All Parenting Books: The Ultimate Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy Child From Preschool Through the Preteens, tells WebMd that once you feel comfortable with the sleepover, give your child the skills he or she needs to feel secure. One of the most helpful things you can do is to make sure your child knows that it’s OK to call home and that, if she’s uncomfortable, you’re willing to come and get her.
There’s no fixed age when a child is ready for a sleepover. Kids mature at different rates, and what’s exciting to your daughter at 9-years old might terrify your son when he’s that same age. Their (and your) comfort level depends on everything from the length of time you’ve known the other family to how much sleep your child really needs at night.
At Gagazine, Jane Heiza writes: “When your child asks permission to attend his first sleepover party, the most important thing that you need to consider is his safety. Find out how many kids will be attending the party, and it may also be a good idea to get in touch with the host parents.... Go ahead and discuss things like safety issues and health concerns. While you cannot entirely judge their values and parenting approach after a short meeting, it can help settle your growing apprehension. Being parents themselves, they can definitely understand your actions.”
And don’t forget that there’s a simple way to give your child what she wants while keeping your mind at ease: Offer to host the sleepover yourself. Sure, you’ll probably get very little rest, but if you’re child is new to the whole sleepover routine, at least you’ll be able to keep an eye on things easily.