Sleepovers are a standard for many kids and teens, but as a parent, it's up to you to ensure that your child is safe, cared for and socially ready to spend the night at a friend's house. While you definitely want your child to mind her manners while at someone else's house, you have the social responsibility to make yourself available to the event hostess, if necessary. Use proper etiquette to prep your child for a sleepover and support the hostess long after everyone falls asleep.
Before you allow your child to go to a sleepover, define how involved the host parents will be throughout the night. For instance, are they the type to allow the kids to hang out unsupervised, or will there be a specific program with parental involvement at all times? Knowing this beforehand can help you make your decision before your child heads to the sleepover. It's your responsibility, even if you aren't hosting, to know what your child will be doing when away from you. If you're uncomfortable with the level of involvement, it's fine to decline politely, but thank the hostess for her invitation.
If it's your child's first sleepover, she needs to be properly prepped before you pack her off to spend the night at someone else's house. Explain what will happen, along with the exact time you'll be dropping her off and the exact time you'll be picking her up. Talk about how you expect her to act and how to properly thank the hostess, as well as how to contact you at any time should she feel nervous or scared.
Don't send your child to a sleepover without all the gear she needs. If you forget something or pack haphazardly, it's then up to the hostess to improvise a pair of pajamas or a toothbrush for your child. Grab everything your child will need for 24 hours, including pajamas, fresh underwear, a change of clothes, a toothbrush and any comfort items she might need to help her fall asleep. It's also acceptable to send along a movie or activity you think the kids might enjoy with a note of thanks to the hostess.
Even a confident child can feel scared during a long night away from her parents. Be available the entire time your child is attending the sleepover because you might be getting a 3 a.m. wake-up call from your child. It's not the hostesses' responsibility to convince your child to stay, so if your child wants to be picked up, it's best if you head over. You can always try a sleepover again another time.
A sleepover is exhausting for everyone involved. If there's a specific pickup time scheduled, don't take advantage of the hostess. Go get your child at the right time so everyone can benefit from some quiet time after a raucous sleepover party.
- Parents Connect: First Sleepover: How to Help Your Kid Deal
- My First Sleepover; Charlotte Guillain (p.22)
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