Link copied to clipboard

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.

Summer is sleepover season. With no school days to work around, more evenings are free for sleepovers. And your children even may be invited away for an entire weekend. It all sounds fun and usually it is. Assuming that your child is old enough to enjoy a sleepover and not need to come home at midnight, what else should you think about before you say “yes”?

Here are some thoughts…

  1. Know the family. It seems obvious that you should know the names of the people your child will stay with and their address, but many times children don’t know this basic information about their school friends.  So know first and last names, who lives in the home and where the home is before you consider a “yes.”
  2. Know something about the family. Does this family share your values? Think here about media use, substance use, use of profanity, and use of harsh discipline. If you don’t know the family well enough to have a good idea of its values, then you really don’t know enough to let your child stay over.
  3. Know about obvious dangers. If the family owns guns, are all of them locked up? If the family owns a dog, is it completely safe? If there is a possibility the family will go swimming, go four-wheeling, or shoot off fireworks who will be in charge and how will the kids be kept safe? The way to know is to ask. Don’t be embarrassed. Ask.
  4. Know who’s in charge. Are the parents planning to go out themselves on the sleepover night and leave the children with a babysitter or older teen? Who will be there and how can you reach that person?
  5. Know how many other kids will be there. Is this a single-kid sleepover or a slumber party? If there will be a crowd of kids there, the ability of any parent to control the group is diminished and some parents give up altogether. The possibility for mayhem increases, including raids by a group of the opposite sex, drinking, dangerous stunts, and nasty gossip. Give extra thought to consenting to a slumber party, especially if your child is a teen or preteen.
  6. Know that your child knows how to reach you. Make sure your child knows you will always come to pick her up – anywhere, anytime – if she feels she needs to make an exit. Make sure your child know that if she feels uncomfortable about anything or anyone, she should trust her gut and speak up – or just get out.

One way to find out more about a family your child wants to visit overnight is to host a sleepover for that family’s child at your home first. You’ll get an idea of what the child thinks are “normal” family activities and you’ll get an idea of how attentive the child’s parents are. Just remember that no actual sleeping happens at most sleepovers.

Most families are pretty much like yours and most sleepovers go off without a hitch. The sleepovers that go wrong are unusual enough to make the evening news. But it still pays to be careful. It’s okay to say “no” if you cannot responsibly say “yes.”


© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.