The very first time that your child spends the night away from you is a big occasion. You’re going to be trusting someone else to care for and soothe your child, where you would usually do that for them. It’s a big deal and as a parent, it does take some getting used to. You’ll find though, that the first time that you do this is often the hardest and it gets easier from there.
One day, your child will graduate to residential trips and nights away at camps with their friends, and before that time comes to pass you’ll want to have a couple of practice runs with people you trust, such as a family member or friend. It takes some getting used to having your children in another place where you can’t care for them. But as long as they know to call you if they want to come home, that’s what matters. So, how can you prepare your child for this night away? Let’s take a look.
- Make sure that your child is confident about the idea. Not all children particularly want to go on sleepovers. They want to stay at home with their parents, and therefore you have to decide what the right age is for them to sleep away from their beds. When they are confident and happy to go is the day that is right, and that’s as simple as it gets. We’re not talking open bravado that they’ll experience midnight feasts, but that they are reassured and secure in the knowledge you’ll be there if they need you.
- Talk about expectations. Walk your child through what to expect from drop off to pick up. You could give them a phone to take with them, and discuss a text before they go to bed and when they wake up if they are comfortable enough to do so. Talk to the person hosting the sleepover, too, and talk about any expectations you may have in terms of pick up times and leaving your phone number in case of an issue.
- Talk about boundaries. One of the biggest fears that parents have about their children staying elsewhere is the risk of strangers. As a parent, you want to shield them from potential dangers and you can’t do that when they are sleeping away from home. Teach your children how to respond and what to do, as well as the difference between a good touch (such as a hug with permission from a friend) and a bad touch (such as a coerced hug from a stranger).
- Drill your telephone number into them. Practice repetition and ensure that your child knows their home phone number, and your mobile phone number. They should be able to repeat it back to you with confidence before you allow a sleepover, because if they lose a piece of paper with the phone number on it there will be an issue.
- Pick a comfy. Is it a stuffed toy or a blanket? A comforter or a doll? No matter what the comfort item may be, make sure that your child has it with them for a sleepover in case they become afraid of the dark or worried in the night. Make sure that you don’t let them take anything that could be devastating to lose, however, because no one wants to deal with that the next day, let alone the child.