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7 Easy Tips for Preparing Your Child for a Sleepover

v1. Give Them a Pep Talk

As excited as kids can get, sometimes once the excitement wears off they’re little bundles of nerves. I’ve seen kids thrilled about the idea of going somewhere, right up to the second it’s time to walk out the door – and then they cry and change their minds. Whether they’re scared or just a little anxious about being away from home, talk to them. You can’t reassure them if you don’t know what’s on their little minds.

2. Pack Them a Thoughtful Bag

If your little one is prone to separation anxiety (or if you’re just nervous that another parent won’t be as attentive to your child’s needs as you are), sending them off with a small care package can alleviate a lot of stress for both of you. The items in your care package should be things you aren’t sure the other parent(s) will have, or things that are specific to your child. For example, his or her favorite blanket or stuffed animal that they absolutely. cannot. live. without.

Or, if your child has dietary restrictions and you’re not sure the other parent(s) will have a certain gluten-free snack handy, pack that. Obviously any necessary medication (with instructions for the other mom or dad) goes without saying, but if there’s a certain book, snack, night light, or small toy that might make your child feel more at home, tuck it away among their clothes and remind them to check the bag later. A special little note from you might also make them feel less home-sick.

If your child is prone to occasional, accidental bed-wetting, consider packing some kind of incontinence protection – many companies make disposable bedding inserts or pads, and there are one or two companies out there who make reusable, machine washable, super comfortable inserts – for them to discreetly insert between the sheets of any bed at their friend’s house, or tuck it into their sleeping bag so that it’s ready to go at bedtime. Packing a product like this is a proactive way to prevent nervousness and embarrassment about potential bed-wetting.

3. Have Them Call, Skype, or Facetime You to Say Goodnight

If you’re including a hand-written note, you might remind your son or daughter to get in touch with you before they go to bed. Depending how old they are and whether or not they have their own smart phone or device, perhaps the other parent(s) can facilitate such contact from one of their devices, if necessary. Sure, it’ll ease your mind, but it’ll likely make your child feel better to hear from you, too.

4. Feed and Hydrate Them Beforehand

If your son or daughter hasn’t been invited for dinner, make sure they’ve had enough to eat and drink so that they’re not hungry and thirsty when arriving to another family’s house (which could cause behavior issues). Also, be sure you share with the other parent(s) if there are any dietary restrictions or no-nos (i.e., NO sugar after 7 pm) just in case the kids get brazen and ask for ice cream before bed.

5. Bathe Them Beforehand

Trust me, the other child’s parents will appreciate you sending a clean kid to their house. Dealing with the dynamics of adding an unfamiliar child to the mix is enough excitement for one night, without having to worry about bath time. Your child will appreciate this too, whether or not s/he is shy – no kid wants to stop playing and having fun to go take a shower. It’s likely that the other parent(s) will have their kid washed and ready as well, so dropping off a freshly showered child just keeps things simple.

6. Have a Weekend Activity Planned

If the sleepover is taking place on a Friday or Saturday, having a fun activity planned for the following day can help propel your child through any anxiety about sleeping in an unfamiliar environment. Just one night can feel like an eternity to a kid – and if they’ve got something else to look forward to – perhaps something you remind them of when you call or write your note to them – it might give them sweet dreams and something else to talk about with their friend. Maybe you can even incorporate the friend and his or her parent(s) into the activity, so that it’s like a play date. This will give you a chance to compare notes, thank the other parent(s), capture a cute photo op, and see how your child interacts with them before bringing him or her home.

7. Remind Them to Be on Their Best Behavior

When excitement sets in, rules and manners are easy to forget. Before taking your son or daughter over to a friend’s house, look them in the eyes and remind them that they are to respect and obey their friend’s mom and/or dad as if they were home with you, and to say please, thank you, and try their best not to make a mess. Let them know that you’ll be checking in and that the sleepover will be over if you hear any news of bad behavior.

Sleepovers can be a wonderful way for your kids to build friendships outside of school, learn how to interact respectfully with other families, and of course – for you to enjoy some occasional you time! But in order for you to really be able to relax and your child to have as much fun as possible, being proactive and taking precautions to eliminate potential problems or sources of anxiety is necessary – and totally worthwhile. It only takes a little bit of time to ensure that the sleepover is a success and that the kids have the best time ever – and that maybe there will be more sleepovers in store for the future!

How old was your child the first time he or she attended a sleepover? Was it a smooth experience or were there issues? Be sure to comment and share your experience with other parents!