kids sleepover

Planning a Sleepover that Works

“Psssst. Daddy! Bobby can’t sleep and misses his mom and dad really bad and wants to go home. Are you awake? Daddy!”  My 9-year-old was hissing this message of doom in my ear. At 2:30 am. That’s right, 2:30 am. After failing in my negotiations to get his friend back to bed until a decent hour, I had to get dressed and drive him home. Did I mention that it was 2:30 in the morning?

Sleepovers can be great fun for kids and offer a chance to play far longer than the normal playdate, but when they go wrong—they tend to go really wrong. If your child has been invited to participate in a kids sleepover, here is a sleepover strategy that works for some ways to make sure it’s a good experience.

 1. What to Consider Before You Say “Yes” to a Sleepover

Sleepover Criteria by Age

Elementary School:

  • Must know parents well.

Middle School: (This age group tends to want to spend the night out the most)

  • Must know parents well, and make sure they’re going to be there the entire evening.
  • Be aware of any older siblings and other older kids who may be there also.
  • If your child is a girl and her friend has older brothers: automatic no.

High School:

Note:  Even if your kids go out for prom or homecoming with friends, require them to still spend the night at home.

2. If you’d rather your child not go…

Be willing to be your child’s scapegoat:

If you sense that your child doesn’t want to go, or you think she’s just not ready, tell your child, “You can tell your friend I said no.”

Create alternatives:

If “everyone” is going to a sleepover, and your child doesn’t want to go, or you don’t want her to go, come up with a fun alternative: invite friends over, ask your child’s grandparents to do something with them, or do something exciting as a family.

Host the sleepover at your house:

That way, you set the guidelines, and your child will feel more secure.

Cultivate new friendships:

Try to expand your child’s friendship circle beyond his school.  Encourage him to make friends with kids through sports, church or other activities. That way, if “all” of the kids in his class are going to the sleepover, he’ll have other friends to spend time with.

3. Sleepover Do’s and Don’ts—For Parents

When your child goes on a sleepover…

  • Do talk about what movies you let your kids watch. Say something like, “We made a decision as a family to stick with G-rated movies.”
  • Do ask if the family’s computers have safety filters.
  • Do offer to pay for any outings that will be part of the sleepover.
  • Do ask what time you should pick up your child – and don’t be late.
  • Do leave at least two cell phone numbers in case of emergency.
  • Don’t micromanage. It’s not polite to insist on certain bedtimes, food choices or activities. If you must be in control of these, have the sleepover at your house.
  • Don’t call your child multiple times during the night.

4. 3 questions you can ask to get your child out of a sleepover once they’re already there

These three questions will help you assess if your child is content to stay the night, or needs to come home.  Since each is a “Yes.” or “No.” question, your child won’t feel put on the spot in front of the other parents.

  1. Are you having fun?
  2. Are you comfortable staying the night?
  3. Do you want to come home?

If your child indicates that she wants to come home, ask her to let you speak to the mother or father. Then, say something like this, “Hi, you know, Megan isn’t feeling well, so I’m going to head over and pick her up.”

You can set a late-night pick-up so your child can have an “almost sleepover,” or you can head right over to pick up your child.

Sound Off

What are some other things to consider about sleepovers?

  • Dan Holt

    I can’t tell you how many times in my own experience, and in the experiences of the kids in my youth group for 15+ years, that sleepovers are where ‘bad things happened’. In almost all cases, it was a situation that the parents were never aware of because they happened behind closed doors and after parents have gone to bed or fell asleep. Games like ‘light as a fether’, truth-or-dare, grosser-than-gross, and other story telling invite darkness into our kids lives and all it takes is one kid to bring in corruption like this. I just heard another story of this just last week and it wasn’t even night-time yet.

    Parents, please count the cost. If the sleepover is at a friend where ‘everyone’ is going, then pick you kid up late, but before any chance that the parents have lost interest in actively being involved and present with the kids. In Jr. High and High-school, it is the parents often providing the drugs and alcohol (ask me how I know), so unless you have a personal relationship with them, they are often a big part of the problem these days.

    The rule in my house was NO sleepovers at other friends houses. When having kids over to our house, our kids had to sleep in their own rooms and the friend(s) got the couch in the living room. That way there was a true ‘bed time’ and they were checked on. We also played games and watched movies with the kids late until we were the last ones standing (so to speak). My kids and youth-group kids have fond memories of 2am dance sessions and other such fun…. Just never alone and unsupervised…

  • Ray Ewing

    I COMPLETELY disagree with your points of not allowing sleepovers if siblings of another sex will be there. I had plenty of sleepovers at my house when I was a kid and my sister (2 years younger) had friends over at the same time. It’s called parenting… set high standards, keep kids on different floors, etc. Kids shouldn’t be sheltered and not allowed to experience things and/or make mistakes. I am not saying kids should have no restrictions; but a blanket, “NO” if a kid has a sibling for a sleepover is wrong.

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