“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.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
- 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.
- Sleepovers are rare.
- You want your children to come home after a night out, so you can check for signs of drinking or drug use.
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.”
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.
- Are you having fun?
- Are you comfortable staying the night?
- 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.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Have you ever felt pressure from your friends to do something you didn’t want to do?”