When Your Child Wants a Sleepover
What do you get when you open the door to your home and find a young guest with pajamas, a fluffy pillow and a toothbrush in tow? The reward is a companion for your child who will still be around to sit with him at the breakfast table.
Hosting a sleepover in your home will give your child a special night to remember. As a parent, you will reap the benefits of seeing your child enjoy a friend while knowing exactly what they are doing and where they are doing it.
A sleepover can be a fun adventure for children.
"Parental participation, preparation and good judgment are needed to ensure that this is a successful activity," says Toni Leonetti, a licensed marriage, family and child therapist in Camarillo, Calif.
The enforcement of house rules can make a sleepover a positive experience for both children and parents.
"My biggest request is for respect and manners," says Cheryl Jones, a mom from Washington. "I want ALL the children in my home, including my own, to say 'please' and 'thank you,' to ask for things when they need them and to not destroy any property."
Chip Ingersoll from Lorain, Ohio, tells his son's guests, "If it's not cool in your own house, it's not cool here." He says he does not experience many behavior problems when children spend the night.
"I have a lot of fun and play around with the kids when they are here, but I make sure they know that I am still in charge, and when I say something, it goes," he says.
How Do You Spell F-U-N?
The activities that lead up to "lights out" are the most memorable events of the evening. Beware of providing too much fun and, therefore, a difficult "cooling down" period later.
"I let my daughter and her friend enjoy each other's company," says Tawnya Curran from Indianapolis, In. "They usually enjoy playing with the dress-up box, making bead jewelry, coloring, playing school, listening to pop music and fixing each other's hair."
Jones says she is always pleased when she is told by a visiting child that they had fun and want to come back. She has also been referred to as a "cool" mom who makes the best macaroni and cheese.
It's an ideal situation when a parent knows the parent(s) of a child who is invited over to spend the night. However, due to work schedules and other factors, this may not always be the case.
"Observing the other child at play can give you clues about his or her family life," says Leonetti.
Curran says she tries to at least be an acquaintance with the other parents before allowing her daughter to invite a guest over. "I always speak with them by phone to make arrangements and to get a feel for what their child likes as far as snacks, bedtime rituals, etcetera," she says.
Jones says she always makes an effort to get to know the other parents well before a sleepover. "I have been very lucky in that the children my daughters have chosen as friends have parents who feel the same way," she says.
Ingersoll says he would feel uncomfortable having a child stay overnight without knowing the parents. "We are friends with the parents of most of Stephen's friends," he says.
The Comfort Zone
What steps can a parent take to ensure that an overnight guest feels at home?
Ingersoll says he talks to the kids a lot, finding out what they like, don't like and what they usually do at home. He tells them that if there is anything that will make them feel more comfortable, to please ask.
"Kids who hang out here often realize quickly that they are part of the family when they are here," he says.
A friend of one mom's son was once scared by an old Frankenstein movie. She says she re-directed her son and his friend, then discreetly shut off the movie.
"ALL children get a goodnight kiss," says Jones, who also has driven children home after experiencing that infamous homesick tummyache.
Curran always lets their overnight guests choose where they would like to sleep. "We have a sofa sleeper in our family room and my daughter has a large bed in her room," she says. "The guest gets to choose the bed." She also leaves a night light on so that the guest can find the bathroom easily at night and has slept in the room with her daughter and her friend when the friend was scared.
It is a good idea to discuss a specific "lights out" time with the other parent. Some parents are lenient about bedtimes, yet others are not.
Jones says bedtime for her daughters and their guests is when she wants some quiet time, which is usually by 10 or 11 p.m.
Ingersoll says he promotes "quiet time" for about an hour before bed. Once the kids are in bed, they are allowed to talk and get all the giggles out for about 20 to 25 minutes after the lights are turned off.