Is Your Child Ready to Sleep Over at a Friend’s House?

by Alice Lesch Kelly

Is Your Child Ready to Sleep Over at a Friend’s House?

Your 6-year-old's been invited to her first sleepover and is begging to go. You can handle it (ah…a chance to sleep late!), but can she? To judge, ask yourself:

How high-maintenance is her bedtime routine?

If she comes undone when you so much as cut short storytime, she's not likely to deal well with someone else's mom saying good night.

What's she afraid of?

You can fix a fear of the dark by packing a nightlight in case the other child doesn't have one, but things that go bump in the night aren't as easy. A friend's parents may not be as adept at banishing monsters under the bed (or willing to turn off their noisy heating pipes).

What are the sleeping arrangements?

Light sleepers may have a hard time nodding off in a sleeping bag or on the floor, and kids who have their own room may be unhappy sharing a bed.

What's going on in her life right now?

Big transitions, such as a divorce or a move to a new school, obviously aren't the best times to test her sense of security, but even smaller stuff—like a new bedtime—can rock a child's world too.

What are her bathroom habits?

If she needs an escort during the night or wets the bed at times, her embarrassment quotient is going to go way up. Ditto if she wears bedtime diapers and her friend doesn't.

And if she's not ready? Stand firm, but ease the letdown by setting some goals. Start with camping downstairs, then try a night at Grandma's.

If you decide to say yes, send her with a care package: In addition to pj's and a toothbrush, add a favorite blanket or furry friend. Then stick by the phone. Don't be surprised if she calls—the trauma of having to stay the night can sometimes be worse than the humiliation of being whisked home in the wee hours.