This year my boys (8 & 11) have been involved in a lot of sleepovers. They’ve stayed at friends’ places and we’ve had kids stay here.
Up until now, sleepovers have been mainly with family so this process of sleepovers with friends has been a bit of an eye opener for me as a parent.
It has made me realise that not all families or homes are the same and it can be a big deal putting your child into an unfamiliar environment overnight.
Here are some things I have learnt:
1. Everyone parents differently.
It doesn’t matter how well you think you know someone, what happens in other people’s homes can be hard to guess. Everyone has their own family culture and your standards could be very different to theirs. Kids aren’t mind readers so the behaviour they get away with at home is likely to be what they do at your place.
Tip: Be very clear with the hosting family if there are specific things you don’t want your child to do. For example, if there is a food or drink you don’t want them to have (e.g. cola) or a type of movie you don’t want them to watch. Likewise, if you are hosting a sleepover check these things with parents. Making house rules clear to guests at the beginning is a good way to make sure the kids know what is expected of them.
2. Beware personal devices.
These days a lot of kids have their own iPods, tablets and smartphones. There is a good chance they will bring these devices with them to a sleepover. Managing what happens with personal technology can be tricky. You can’t be sure what apps they have or what they might google in front of other kids. Remember you are responsible for what happens under your roof!
Tip: If the sleepover is at your place, consider “unplugging” the fun. Encourage the kids to spend time together device free. Or if they need a tech-fix let them play on a console such as PS4 or Xbox where you can see what they are doing.
3. Get the right mix.
When my son recently had a sleepover for his birthday, I assumed that because the guests were all HIS friends, they were friends with each other. I couldn’t have been more wrong. One child had a strong dislike for another and subtly made him so uncomfortable he asked to go home early. It put a real downer on my son’s party and I felt terrible that a child had been bullied under my roof without me being aware.
Tip: When doing up the guest list make sure to check that all invitees are friends and get on well. Try to stick with even numbers so no one gets left out.
4. There can be too much of a good thing.
When planning events we sometimes go overboard with all the fun things we want to cram in. With sleepovers there is a longer period of time but remember the party animals we are catering for are still young and can run out of steam. Tired kids are not happy kids.
Tip: Consider starting your sleepover in the afternoon with pick up early to mid morning. That way everyone can go home to recharge and your soiree will hopefully end on a positive note.
5. Brief and debrief your kids.
Before hosting or attending a sleepover, remind your kids of your expectations. This includes reinforcing any non-negotiable rules. After the event, talk to them about how things went, if any thing happened that made them uncomfortable or if they have questions about something they experienced.
Tip: You may want to make up a code word so your child can call you to collect them if they feel uncomfortable or want to come home. This saves the embarrassment of admitting to their friends that they want to leave the party.
Sleepovers can be lots of fun for all involved but I have realised they need a little more preplanning and open communication to ensure that all parents and kids are on the same page. This will guarantee everyone has a good time.