The experience of a childhood sleepover is a normal childhood joy. Kids get to create positive memories, eat tons of junk food, laugh, play and stay up later than normal. Sleepovers also strengthens the bond between friends, encourages your child to engage in behaviors you have taught them away from your watchful eye and promotes decision making.
It's normal for some parents to worry a little bit about their child’s readiness to sleepover at a friend’s house. There are lots of reasons. Some of the worries may be about whether your child will mind their manners. You might also worry that they'll become frightened at night in a new environment. And will they remember to go to the bathroom before bed if they are not prompted to?
Additionally, your child may also be experiencing their own worries.
For some children, leaving their place of safety, security and comfort for the unknown can be intimidating, especially during the first sleepover. To alleviate some of the worries you may experience, here are some things to consider that will help you know if your child is ready or not.
1. Developmental needs. Children develop at their own pace socially, cognitively, intellectually and emotionally. As a parent, this is an important consideration to factor in prior to supporting your child going to their first sleepover.
2. Responsiveness to instructions. During the sleepover, your child may receive multiple prompts from their friend's parents. These prompts can include picking up after themselves, playing nicer, putting on their pajamas, etc. You want to know that your child can respond to these instructions in a positive manner.
3. Coping skills. Children can be competitive with one another, which can cause hurt feelings or the feeling of being left out. Consider whether or not your child can express themselves — with or without guidance — to share their feelings. Or do they act out? You will want to know that your child has the ability to use coping or soothing skills during these moments.
To alleviate these concerns, try these parenting strategies to help teach your child what to expect.
1. Establish clear rules for behavior. Using a general “be on your best behavior” may be too broad of an idea. Instead, be more specific with the behavior you expect from your child. This allows children to understand the expectations. Behavioral descriptions such as “Say okay when an adult gives you an instruction,” “take turns with your friends when playing games” or “make sure to say thank you" will be helpful to your child.
2. Help your child understand the benefits of following these rules by using rationales. Rationales are reasons used to strengthen the desired behavior. An example might be, “When you take turns with your friends, they are more likely to want to invite you over again.”
3. Lastly, set up a fun practice. This allows your child to demonstrate to you that he or she knows how to follow the rules you have provided.
Torrey Leeper started at Boys Town in 2012, and is currently a Program Quality Director. Some hobbies she enjoys are watching basketball games and spending time with her family. To read more about Boys Town, click here.