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When Is Your Child Ready for a Sleepover?

The late night ring of the phone said it all as the tiny voice asked me to sing her a lullaby. It was my seven-year-old daughter at her first sleep over. I sang her favorite bedtime song, and then a few minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was the mother of the sleepover friend. In a hushed voice she said, “You need to come pick her up now.”

With that experience, I always wondered, when is the ‘right’ age or time for a sleepover? Clearly, I felt as if I goofed as a parent.

sleepover

Kate Baxter, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Orange County advises, “Sleepover requests usually begin from your children or the parents of your children’s friends between ages seven to 10.”

Baxter explains that even though your child is asking to have a sleep over, the appropriateness is based on three factors: 1) parents’ level of comfort; 2) the child’s ability to separate and sleep away from family in an unfamiliar place successfully; and 3) your child’s maturity level.

You know your child best. This is the time where parents need to carefully consider if their child is ‘ready.’ “Even though they (children) may be asking for a sleepover, they don’t always anticipate the feelings that come up when they actually do it, and many parents have to do pick ups in the middle of the night because their child couldn’t sleep, felt awkward asking for water, or engaged in a friend conflict and couldn’t work it out,” she said.

Gradual trial sleepover approach. Baxter recommends testing their readiness for a sleepover by applying a gradual introduction. Try a trial run at your home with their friend to see how your child resolves conflicts. If it is a success, allow your child to stay over at a friend’s house for a limited time, but longer than usual and into the evening hours (well after dinnertime). A gradual introduction will help prepare them, and you for any potential pitfalls.

Baxter advises: “If it’s determined that they are ready after all that preparation, discuss situations that could arise at the sleepover, such as who is attending, and any safety precautions.”

“Finally, assure your child they can call or text goodnight if they are homesick, or if they ever feel uncomfortable in a situation,” concludes Baxter.

Kristal Zacharias is the mother of two beautiful, vivacious girls, and wife of a hunky husband who works in the action sports industry. For the past 15 years, Kristal has worked for several Fortune 500 companies as a professional communicator. Follow her journey at Clearly Kristal or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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