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Planning A Sleepover That Works

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“Psssst. Mommy! Brenley can’t sleep and misses her mom and dad real bad and wants to go home. Are you awake?? Mommy!”  My 9 year old was hissing this message of doom in my ear. At 2:30 am. That’s right people, 2:30 am. After failing in my negotiations to get her friend back to bed until a decent hour, my husband had to get dressed and drive her 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 sleepover at another child’s house, here is a iMOM’s 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 girl, and her friend has older brothers, automatic no.

High School:

  • 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.”

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 put the other mother on the phone.  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.


What do you think is the most fun at a sleepover?

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