There comes a time when camping in the living room with Mom and Dad will no longer cut it. If that’s the case, your kids might be ready for their first sleepover. But, like any new milestone, you may worry if it’s the right time to send them to a slumber party. There are no hard and fast rules about the right age: some 6-year-olds might be ready to sleep away from home, some 11-year-olds might not be. So it’s important for parents to assess each opportunity individually. Read on for six signs your kids may be ready for a sleepover or an epic slumber party, and 10 ways you can reassure them that everything will be A-OK once they get there.
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1. They Know What to Expect
Your kid’s first sleepover is a fun rite of passage, but make sure she knows exactly what she’s getting into before she heads out the door. Go over specifics, like navigating the bedtime routine at someone else’s house, and answer all the questions, like whether or not she can still bring her favorite stuffed animal.
2. You’ve Tested It Out
If you’re not quite sure if your child may be ready for a full-fledged slumber party away from home, try it at your house first. This way, you can see if the kids tire of one another or begin to fight with one another. Also, you can opt to throw a “mock sleepover” with a movie, popcorn, and PJs, but call it quits just before bedtime. Then you’ll know you’ve worked your way up to the real deal, but everyone can go home and sleep in their own beds!
Related: Why I’m Saying Yes To Sleepovers This Summer!
3. They’re OK without You
Have you ever had to spend the night away from your child? Perhaps they’ve had a babysitter walk them through brushing and bedtime or stayed with grandparents while you were out of town? If they are OK being away from you overnight, or at least until they fall asleep, they may be ready for their first sleepover.
4. You’ve Asked Questions
Perhaps your little one is thrilled about the pint-sized pajama game, but you’re still a little uneasy. There is nothing wrong with calling up the other parent and asking questions until you feel more comfortable. Everything from “What time will they go to bed?” to “Do you have pets?” are all fair game to calm your nerves. You’ll also want to address any concerns you have about how the parents will handle situations like arguments or kids being scared in the night. And don’t overlook the BIG question: are there guns in your house, and are they kept in a safe, secure place where the children (ANY children) will not have access to?
5. They’re Planning One
When your kids come home from school, begging for a sleepover with their BFF, it’s a good indication that they’re ready to give it a go. On the flip side, if they seem cautious about the idea or worried about who will tuck them in, they may need more time to warm up to sleeping away from home.
6. You’ve Talked to Your Kids About Inappropriate Touching
Part of feeling safe is being safe and making sure your children understand not just what is good etiquette at the host family’s house, but what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior from the adults and older siblings in the house. While we encourage our children to be polite and on their best behavior, it is equally important to speak frankly with children in a way that will empower them to say “no” and know when something just isn’t right.
Related: The Best Museum & Zoo Sleepovers in the U.S.
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Related: Goodnight Summer! 11 Epic Sleepover Ideas
Here are 10 statements you can make to help your little one feel secure at their first sleepover:
- "You can call me to say goodnight before you go to bed.”
- “I will pick you up first thing in the morning.”
- “You can take a picture of us with you.”
- “We are only a phone call away.”
- “You will have so much fun with your friend and we’ll see you in the morning.”
- “[Friend]’s parents will be there in case you need anything.”
- “You can bring your pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal with you.”
- “We’ll be home if you need us.”
- “I’m so proud of you and I want you to have fun with [friend]!”
- “I can’t wait to hear all about it when you get home.”
And if all does not go according to plan and you need to dash out to pick up your child early, a simple “maybe next time!” can help them to feel a little less embarrassed about feeling homesick. Happy slumbering!