A rite of passage for American children is a sleepover. A sleepover is where a guest or guests are invited to stay overnight at the home of a friend. My six-year-old daughter will have her first sleepover this month.
Few words strike more fear into the heart of a parent than these: “Can I have a sleepover?” Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, wrote about her strict rules which included denying her children the experience of attending a sleepover. Her viewpoint was that nothing good could come from attending a sleepover.
So what’s the big deal about sleepovers, anyhow? Sleepovers are big events for children – a time to feel grown up, to delight in special alone time with a friend, to joke around and share laughs with friends until they cry!
There’s no set age when it’s okay for kids to begin having sleepovers. Children vary greatly in terms of when they feel ready to attend a sleepover. My six-year-old invited her close friend to watch a movie at our house on Saturday night. The little girl’s mother informed me that her daughter was very excited about the invitation but was hoping that the invitation would turn into something more… a sleepover at our house. I thought to myself, why not! Admittedly, I was actually happy that the sleepover would be at our house so that I can witness the special moment of my child having her first sleepover experience.
Have you heard of the sleepover folklore? It seems every parent has a nightmare story to share. The kids don’t sleep and then they are in a rotten mood the following day, their child got head lice, bed-wetting, bullying, sleepwalking episodes. I, myself, never experienced any of those issues or was witness to any of those problems in my youth during a sleepover. I did, however, get my knickers put in a freezer at a slumber party because I was the first one to fall asleep. But, that was a slumber party where there was more than one person in attendance, not a sleepover.
I do believe that there is more opportunity for pranks and bullying, by way of gossiping, to occur at a slumber party since there are more people present.
One of my fondest sleepover memories happened with my childhood best friend. We were curled up in a recliner chair watching The Empire Strikes Back. At the time I am guessing we had to be anywhere between 7 and 9 years of age. We both had a huge crush on Harrison Ford’s character, Han Solo. When Han Solo kissed his love interest, Princess Leia, my friend and I, holding such anticipation for that moment, were overcome with pure joy and nervousness which lead to us rocking the chair too hard and we tipped the chair right over! That particular sleepover moment taught us about romance and exposed us to a new world of men wooing women.
I guess that is another concern of parents with the whole sleepover dilemma. What will my child be exposed to during a sleepover? It is recommended that if your child will be sleeping at a friend’s house, you as the parent should speak with the other parents involved and inform them of what your children can and cannot watch via DVD and television shows.
To make the first sleepover and/or follow-up sleepovers hassle free, here’s how:
1. Choose participants wisely: First, decide if this is going to be a one-on-one sleepover or a team event. Start with just one guest. You can advance to more invitees as your child gets older and you get more brave! Aim for an even number of guests to prevent the “odd kid out” syndrome.
2. Select a date: Saturdays are considered the prime night for sleepovers. Your child can recuperate the following day and catch up on some sleep.
3. Find out if the guest or guests have any food allergies in advance.
4. To prevent any accidents, make sure any young guests know where the bathrooms are located before ushering them off to sleep.
5. Have a fun but practical menu: Less-than-healthy snacks are expected at sleepovers, it’s part of the fun! Offer easy-to-vacuum-up foods like popcorn, chips, and pretzels. You can have your child call their friend in advance to find out their favorite ice cream and snack foods. The next morning, you may offer up a healthy but easy breakfast — fruit, yogurt, bagels, muffins and cereal.
6. Check lighting and temperature comfort in advance where the kids will be sleeping. I recommend putting a nightlight in your child’s room if she/he doesn’t already have one.
7. If possible, talk with parents as they drop off their kids about whether their kid is susceptible to homesickness, and steps to take if this becomes an issue.
8. Plan fun activities: I am letting the girls watch a G-rated movie. I plan to have painting activities on hand in case they want to channel their inner artist.
9. Establish ground rules: No leaving the house without asking. Stay in designated areas or rooms.
My daughter is absolutely over the moon excited about her upcoming sleepover. As her mother, I am grateful she has such a good friend to share this experience with. I am still best friends with the Han Solo loving friend that I mentioned above. We’ve been friends since we were six years old. We still get together for sleepovers in NYC once or twice a year. They are more fun now as an adult, throw in some wine, pampering, shopping and yes, even a little Harrison Ford, and you have the makings of a fun-filled ladies night/sleepover!
Are sleepovers part of children’s youth where you live? Do you have any fond memories from your childhood of sleepovers that you attended?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Courtney Cappallo of Massachusetts, USA. Courtney can be found homeschooling on her blog, Table of Four.
The photograph used in this post is attributed to the author.