Easing Sleepover Anxiety

As a kid, I loved sleepovers. In fact one of my fondest memories was the time I went to a sleepover at a friend’s house.

It still makes me laugh today. Two of us were in twin beds and the third friend was in a rollaway bed. It was late and we were carrying on as young girls do when all of a sudden the rollaway bed folded in half with our friend in it. We were laughing so hard we could not pull the bed apart.

Fast forward to when I became a parent and sleepovers came into the picture. While my child did not seem to have any anxiety about sleepovers, as the parent I did. Even if the sleepover was at my house, there was still anxiety. I hope more than a few of you reading this can relate.

Here are some tips to help you deal with sleepover anxiety:

little girls jumping on the bed at a sleepover

1. Start slow with people who are familiar.

Encourage sleepovers with grandparents, cousins, or close friends to get your child used to sleeping in a bed other than their own and being around people other than their parents. This is healthy on so many levels. It encourages independence and it teaches children that there are other adults in their life who are capable of taking good care of them.

2. Have a sleepover at your house.

Invite cousins or a few close friends to spend the night at your house. You might even consider letting them “camp out” in the family room or for real in the back yard. This will allow you to see how your child interacts with other children. It’s also a great way to start a conversation about the idea of sleepovers.

3. Be careful about forcing the issue.

Some children really shy away from the idea of sleeping anywhere other than their own bed. When it comes to spending the night with friends, this issue often goes away as they get older. If you as parents are trying to get away for some much needed rest, there is nothing wrong with your children going over to their grandparent’s house – even if they complain they don’t want to do that. Don’t feel guilty about following through on your plan. You know they will be safe and well cared for.

4. Be intentional about anxiety-reducing strategies.

Know the parents. It is appropriate to ask who will be in the home. If you aren’t comfortable with the parents or who will be in the home, don’t let your child go. Ultimately, this is all about making good choices for your child. Talk with your child about how to navigate rules at the sleepover location. For example, if you don’t allow your child to watch R-rated movies, what do you want your child to do if the family chooses to watch one? 

happy girls at a sleepover

What if the dreaded call comes?

This is a fine line. You don’t want to make threats you have no intention of keeping like, “If I come pick you up, you will never go to another sleepover.” Assess the situation. If they can’t sleep or they miss being home, try to calm them down and tell them you will pick them up at 7 a.m. If it seems like something is truly wrong, communicate with the host parents before jumping in your car and racing over to get them.

Sleepovers are good in so many ways. Are there downsides? Absolutely. But it seems like the good that can come from them outweighs the bad if the appropriate precautions have been taken and conversations about expectations have occurred.

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