Your child’s sleep over can be a special, well remembered event creating lasting memories. But if not carefully thought out can also be a disaster waiting to happen. Save yourself the latter, and form a strategy to ensure your sanity as well as create a memorable experience for your child. I’ve learned from my own experience that sleepovers have definite potential for drama, and mischief. However, you can easily avoid any mishaps and unnecessary emotional turmoil by preparing your child for the event, planning activities, and setting down simple guidelines. A well thought out sleepover can make all the difference between success, and disaster.
Is your child ready? How many children should be invited?
Consider your child’s personality and temperament. Is she calm and easy-going? Is she high strung? Does she upset easily? Does she roll with the punches? Is she argumentative with her peers? Does she listen to your rules? These are all things to ponder when deciding if a sleepover should be allowed at all, or if she may need another year or two to grow before taking on being the host of overnight stays. Some kids may be ready for a sleepover at age six (I would recommend only one sleep over guest for a child this young), while other kids may never be ready. In general, sleepovers work best for a child 8 years or older, however, you know your child better than anyone, and you will know what is best for her. After careful consideration, if you decide your child is ready, next consider how many children should be allowed to spend the night. There is no wrong and right number, it really depends on what you think your child can handle.
Talk to your child beforehand
Be sure to talk to your child about the sleepover beforehand, discussing the rules, and laying down guidelines that cover the moment her friends walk through the door, to the moment of your “halleluiah” when they get picked up to go home. That way she will know exactly what is expected and there shouldn’t be any surprises. This is very important since once her friends arrive she will invariably lose her hearing when it comes to you talking. Better to do it beforehand while her hearing is still intact.
Planned activities are a must whether your child is very young, or well into high school. The last thing you need is bored children who may look to mischief as their cure. There are numerous activities that can be planned that are simple and fun. They should be chosen in accordance to the age and interests of the children, and of course approved by your child. Add a movie and snacks and voila!
Who to invite
Ideally your child should invite children that she has already established a friendship with and with whom she feels comfortable. However, feelings count, and if she’s inviting her whole Brownie troop but decides to exclude two of the kids she doesn’t like then you will need to step in and insist that she invite all of the kids. Excluding a few will only create problems and lead to hurt feelings. How would your child feel if she were the one left out next time?
One more thing not to allow
Do not allow the kids to separate into different groups. You can imagine the hurt feelings, resentment and jealousy that can occur when one group seems to be having more fun than the next. Or, the frustration felt when one group starts whispering while the other group looks on. It only takes one child to start this and….let the drama begin. You should either, upon arrival, let all the children know that they are to stay together at all times, or at the very least, stop any separating as soon as you see it. A simple comment, such as, “hey guys, I want all of you to stick together, please join the rest of the group”, should do the trick. If not, a change of scenery is a must. You can call everyone to the kitchen for a snack, or begin a planned activity; it will get everyone talking together again.
Your child’s independence
There is nothing wrong with giving your child a feeling of independence during her special night with friends, but depending on her age, complete independence can be a futile mistake. For the younger child, a parent should be present throughout the entire evening. However, what can you do for the older child who would cringe with embarrassment if her parent made her feel as if they were babysitting her friends? Chances are, the older child, will go directly to her bedroom and shut her door. There is nothing wrong with this, after all, for the older child, giggling with her friends in her room is what a sleepover is all about. But there are simple things that you can do to “check in” and make sure the evening is running as smoothly as you had hoped. Spread out the events so that you have check points throughout the evening. After all, you will have several activities planned, as well as snacks and drinks which will need to be taken in the kitchen. At this point, as they come out of their cave-like seclusion, you will be free to check out how well everyone is doing. Is there any frowning going on? Any looks that can kill? If not, you’re free and clear to breathe easy. Otherwise, there is no harm in calling your child into a private room for 2 minutes of her time to be sure she doesn’t need your help resolving any conflict. She may even be appreciative of any suggestions you can give her.
Collect cell phones at the door
There should be no argument about it, this is the house rule, and if they don’t like it they can certainly choose to leave; trust me they won’t. Turning in phones means ridding the party of the potential drama that can occur through the wonderful world of texting and picture taking. You don’t want kids to create unnecessary drama by doing things such as texting kids that were not invited to the party, or taking and sending pictures. Even if you are sure your child would never partake in such a thing, remember, peer pressure does exist and you cannot be sure that your child will not fall victim. Avoid it altogether by insisting they turn over their cell phones and letting them know that if they need to call home they can ask for their phone at any time. Although you don’t want your child’s friends comparing you to the wicked witch of the west, you’ll certainly have ample time throughout the evening to redeem your ever so important “cool” mom status. They’ll quickly forget about enduring this terrible inconvenience and will go on to focus on the fun at hand.
Too much thought can ruin the spontaneity? Possibly. So keep it simple. To ensure there is no boredom lurking in the hours to come, plan several activities, and snacks. However, as luck should have it and if everyone is having too much fun to fit in all you had planned, relax, it means your sleepover is a success.