For me, the definition of a sleepover is this: "The night before the day in which your child is grumpy, sassy, sleepy and tearful – if it's not well planned out.
In order to make sure your child is safe and set everyone up for a successful overnight – whether your child is 8 or 18 – keep these items in mind:
1. Age Limit. Overnights are privileges, not rights. As the parent, you can decide if you to allow them to go or not. Some parents will designate an age in which you earn that privilege – maybe it’s once you hit double digits or once you become a teen. Many parents say “no” to the overnights once a youth enters high school or is of driving age. Base your decision on the maturity and trustworthiness of your child.
2. Maturity. Will your younger child brush her teeth, use the restroom before bed, says please and thank you and help pick up? Does she often get scared at night, have bed-wetting issues or have trouble getting to sleep? Sending her off for an overnight might turn into a midnight phone call for you to come pick her up or worry on her part.
3. Trustworthiness. This applies to the older kiddos who are staying overnight. Can you trust that your child is where he says he is? Call the other parent to make sure they are not only aware of the overnight invitation, but also that they will be home to monitor. If there has been an issue in the past regarding overnights and honesty, maybe you only allow others to stay at your own house. Restate your expectations to your child, and never go for the “well, her parents let us do it” or “her parents didn’t care.”
4. Calendar of activities. Look ahead at the next day's activities. If your child has a full schedule of other commitments, such as soccer, a birthday party, a large school project or even a job to get to, then an overnight probably is not a good idea. Choose a low key day. Let your child know your decision and reasons behind it, and save it for another day. Before your child tries to debate the issue, let her know that how she handles your decision at this moment will affect the next time she asks for the PRIVILEGE of staying overnight again.
5. Happy host. So the overnight is on and you are the happy host. Pull out some easy treats, pick out the designated area, point out some simple rules and let the kids have fun. Depending on the ages, it might be loud, include silly behavior, a bit of running around or be scarily silent. Peek your head in, redirect activity if needed, make sure younger kids are feeling up to the long night and older kids are secured in the house. In our house, we always say “We don’t have security systems to keep the bad guys out, we have security systems to keep the teenagers in.”
Laura Kelley, Crisis Counselor for the Boys Town National Hotline and the Nebraska Family Helpline, wrote this guest blog for momaha.com. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and her Masters in Early Childhood. She is a former preschool teacher in the Omaha Community. She has three boys and lives with her husband of 25 years in Omaha. Learn more about the Boys Town National Hotline by clicking here.