When my third-grade daughter received her very first invitation to a sleepover birthday party, I had no idea what to do. My long-held rule was no sleepovers until age 12. Yet I found myself wavering, debating whether to say yes since so many of her good friends were spending the night. I have since learned that many mothers allow their children to attend sleepovers, sometimes as young as age five. However, there are equally as many mothers who stand firm with their “no sleepovers” rule. Searching the internet yields no clear answers on the “best” or “most appropriate” time to say yes to a sleepover — only a wide array of strong opinions.
Why are sleepovers so controversial?
Parents who have misgivings about sleepover parties cite many concerns. Some fears center around the possibility of poor supervision, molestation by an older male in the home, handguns in the house and potential bullying. Other concerns are less dramatic — but probably more realistic — such as sleep deprivation or concern that your child might get homesick and upset at 2:00 a.m.
While it can sometimes feel like a tough decision and a controversial topic, deciding if a night away is appropriate for your little one really boils down to a few key issues.
Is your child is ready?
Prior experience: How your child has fared sleeping at a grandparent’s or family member’s home, if applicable, can help you predict readiness for peer group sleepovers.
Know your child: What might be an easy night for some children might not be for others. Children who have occasional anxiety, are dependent upon routine, get shy or homesick easily or have difficulty with bedtime at home may have more challenges with spending the night away.
Are you ready?
Knowing the hosts: One of the most critical deciding factors for many parents is how well they know the hosting family. The level of friendship between the two families involved seems to increase confidence and comfort level with the type of discipline, supervision and attentiveness that will be given to your child.
Personal values: Another factor is our own personality and parenting lens. Our sense of fear and anxiety, how we were raised, our value system and our philosophies on child-rearing all shape our parenting decisions. When it comes to sleeping over, we should neither apologize for our own decisions nor judge another person for theirs.
Are there benefits to sleeping over?
Some may ask, why sleep over at all? Bonds of friendship can often be strengthened during sleepover parties. Allowing your child to experience a new situation and a change in routine helps to promote flexibility and confidence. In addition, sleepovers can offer your child opportunities to enhance their social skills and gain independence which enhances self-esteem.
Go with your gut
Permitting or denying a child to attend a sleepover is a highly personal decision. Every child, situation, opportunity and event is different, so the most important thing is to know your child and trust your gut. Always honor your personal feelings and attitudes about sleepovers without succumbing to child or parental peer pressure! Also remember to stay receptive to re-evaluating your opinions under each set of circumstances.
Sleepovers can be nerve-wracking and we often wonder why kids need to start so young. But they can also provide opportunities for a child to build confidence and independence if and when the time and situation are right.
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