A sleepover is a right of passage. It means your child is growing up.
That said, your child’s first sleepover can be nerve-wracking, both for you and your child. My children’s first sleepover was with their grandparents. My children were already familiar and comfortable in their house and I was comfortable leaving my children in their care. This made it easier when it was time for my children to have a sleepover at a friend’s house. Some children love sleepovers and some dread them, so listen to your own child. If your child is ready for a sleepover, here are my tips to make it go smoothly.
First, make sure you are familiar with the friend’s household.
Just because you meet up with this family in public doesn’t mean that you know what their home is like. For example, know if they have pets. You don’t want to send a child with an allergy to cats or a fear of dogs to a home with those pets. Although it’s awkward, you should also ask about guns in the home. If there are guns present, are they locked up and separate from the ammunition? It’s better to ask an awkward question now than to deal with a devastating accident later. Also, I like to make sure that the parents offer up an amount of supervision that I am comfortable with. I don’t feel the need for them to keep eyes on my child at all times, but I don’t want my child left home alone with her friend.
Make a plan to deal with your child’s special needs.
If your child has an allergy, inform the host parent and make sure they know how to use an EpiPen. If your child might wet the bed, make a plan beforehand so that no one gets flustered if it happens. If your child takes medication, either dose them before or after the sleepover, or let the hosts know when your child needs to take the medication. I don’t trust my son to remember his medication while he’s busy playing with friends, so I try to give him his medication before he leaves for a sleepover. It’s easier for the host to deal with a problem that pops up in the middle of the night if you have already discussed a plan ahead of time.
Help your child pack. If they are old enough to pack on their own, double-check what they chose.
The last time my son had a sleepover, he insisted on packing his own bag. I didn’t check it, and it turns out that he forgot to pack a toothbrush and grabbed an old pair of pants that were too small for him to wear. Oops! If your child isn’t used to packing their own bags, it can be a tough task. If you pack together, it is a good teaching moment for your child to learn an important life skill. Your child should pack an extra pair of clothes in case of a mess, pajamas, underwear, socks, and a toothbrush at a minimum. Also, if your child sleeps with a special blanket or stuffed animal, make sure they take that item as well. If not, you may be called at bedtime to bring it over.
Prepare your child before the sleepover.
It will help put your child at ease if he knows what to expect at his first sleepover. For example, tell your children that they will spend the night at their friend’s house, will they will play, eat dinner, and then go to sleep. You will come to pick them up and take them home in the morning after they eat breakfast. Depending on your child, you might want to call and check in with them. My husband and I did this the first time our children slept over at their grandparents’ house when they were toddlers. Now they don’t need that reassurance, so we don’t bother. I also like to have my children shower before a sleepover so they don’t have to pack a lot of toiletries or borrow them during a sleepover. It’s so much easier at home!
Leave plenty of contact information.
I’m assuming that parents would have each other’s contact information if their children were having a sleepover. However, if you may be out of touch during the sleepover, for example, if you’re out on a date with your partner, make sure to leave another person’s contact information. If for some reason an emergency comes up, you want the host to be able to quickly reach someone with the authority to make choices for your child. While this will rarely, if ever, come up, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!