Pre-arranged or spontaneous sleepovers can be a lot of fun but parents may find that letting their young ones sleep away from home for a night, can be quite traumatic (for all involved). During the daylight hours, children are intrigued at the idea of spending a night away from mom and dad, but when the sun sets, they may realise that mom and dad are -far away’ and the novelty of the impending sleepover quickly wears off.
If you have been asked the dreaded question -Mom, can I sleep over? You are probably in two minds about it – let’s face it, on the one hand, it is a welcoming break and the chance to catch up on a movie or an adult dinner, but on the other hand, you don’t feel quite ready to let go (even if it is just one night). Sleeping over at grandparents, aunts, etc. is a whole different ballgame to giving your preschooler the go ahead to sleep over at a stranger’s home.
Sleepovers are not without benefits and both parents and kids can benefit from the occasional sleepover.
- Parents can use the free time to spend some quality time together and they can pay back the favour a few weeks later by arranging the next sleepover at their home.
- A child will gain a sense of independence when spending the night with a friend’s family and this will go a long way to helping a shy or insecure child to overcome any separation issues.
Tips for a happy sleepover
If you are ready to relinquish control for a night, here are a few tips that will make the transition a little easier and will also help to set mom’s mind at ease:
- Insist on meeting the parents. Try to visit the home, if possible. Perhaps arrange a play-date for the weekend before or meet the mom for tea.
- Enquire about TV-watching rules. The last thing you want is the preschooler to return with night terrors because they were allowed to watch age-restricted movies. Make a point of telling the parents that you do not allow age-restricted programs to be watched. This may seem petty, but there are parents who allow kids to watch whatever is on.
- If your child is on a special diet or is taking any medication, it is important that the friend’s mom is informed. If the child has any allergies or health concerns, it is really important to inform the family.
- If you are going to go out for the evening, leave an alternative contact number, in case your phone is switched off.
If your child is used to spending the night with grandparents, the sleepover will probably go off without any snags but parents should expect a call from the desperate mom (quite possibly in the middle of the night) to fetch the scared or uncertain child. Once all the excitement of the sleepover wears off and reality sets in, kids could start to feel homesick and will want to be rescued immediately. Take it in your stride and put off all future sleepovers for a few months.
The dubious uncle
Perhaps the biggest reason why sleepovers are a no-no for a lot of parents is because of the many horror stories we hear about creepy uncles or dodgy family members! The bottom line is that we should always trust our instincts and to this end arranging a meeting with the child’s family (or at least the mom) is vitally important. If moms or dads feel a little uneasy or doubtful when visiting the home, it is best not to ignore these nagging warning signs and rather call the sleepover off. Rather safe, than sorry!
Be as honest as possible with your child and tell them of the dangers that exist. Explain to them in no uncertain terms that there are bad people in the world. Make it clear to children that they are able to call on you at any time to fetch them and remember to teach them your number. Sleepovers will usually go off without a hitch and the following day a child will return home happy and excited about their new experience. Sleepovers are the perfect way for kids enjoy some time alone and take pleasure in the simple joys of childhood.
Being nurturers by nature, moms have difficulty in letting go and when we do take the first step and permit our child to sleepover, we spend the night worrying that they are okay and if they are being looked after, or we second guess our decision, wondering if our -babies’ are ready? We need to remind ourselves that sleepovers are all part of growing up and the fun times that are shared between friends in the middle of the night will form the very basics of happy and memorable childhood memories.
If you are, however, dead-set against sleepovers before a certain age or as a rule, another alternative would be to permit kids to stay with their friends a little later into the evening (until 8pm for instance), or if a sleepover is suggested, offer to be the host, in this way a child will still be able to enjoy all the fun that goes with sleepovers.
If you are hosting a sleepover, here are a few tips:
- Ensure that you have all the contact details for both parents (and if possible another family member, like an aunt, etc).
- Be sure to ask if the child is on any medication or if the child has any health problems (such as asthma).
- Do not dish out tons of sweets or fizzy drinks – you will be setting yourself up for a long night and you may be tending to a lot of sore tummies.
- Try to stick to the same bed time. Late bedtimes may very well lead to two irritable preschoolers in the morning.
- Have a prepared list of fun games to play. Smaller kids tend to have trouble entertaining themselves, so bring out a game of Twister, have cartoon DVDs on hand or play musical chairs.
- For an extra cool sleepover, set-up a tent or a makeshift tent – this will be an instant hit.