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With summer approaching, your child may ask to host a sleepover. This is usually not much of a problem for the under-10 set, who do eventually wind down and fall asleep. A movie, some popcorn or ice cream, and space for sleeping bags and usually everyone’s snoring by midnight, including you!

But if your child is a preteen or older, sleepovers may be a bit more complicated. If you’re planning on hosting a sleepover this summer, here are some tips to make the evening and the middle of the night go more smoothly.

Invite the right number. Sure your child has lots of friends and no one wants to be left out. But better to host several sleepovers with one or two other children than to host one sleepover and invite 10 kids. What is the most children you care to have responsibility for? Fewer is better than more.

Plan the right activities. The first word here is “plan,” and that’s a good place to start. Even if your child and her friends are fine without your planning, having a couple ideas ready will smooth things over if people get bored. But make certain what you have ready are “right activities.” You don’t want anything that’s too juvenile but you also don’t want anything that’s too adult or too dangerous.

Set the ground rules. Be nice about it but make your expectations clear right from the start and make gentle reminders throughout the night:

Good rules for children, yes, but there are also a few rules for you:

If your child is not the sleepover host but a sleepover guest some night soon, review with him ahead of time what your expectations are for his behavior in someone else’s house. Let him know that you will always come pick him up, no matter what the time, no questions asked, if he feels uncomfortable with what’s going on. Make certain the adults are responsible and plan to be on hand – which means you’ve got to ask them how the party will go. A too-casual attitude on their part should be a red flag. Don’t let your child fall into a situation that gets out of hand.

Sleepovers are fun but they take some thinking through. Imagine what can go wrong and take steps to head it off ahead of time.


© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.