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Is your child ready for a sleepover? How to tell

Updated: February 20, 2012 8:01AM

Around age 5 or 6, it is not uncommon for children to think about having a friend spend the night. The concept may not be foreign to them if they have spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, but the reality is different than sleepovers at a family member’s house. Does your child show an interest?

If the concept of spending an entire night away from home at a friend’s house seems too big for your child, slip into it gently. Allow your child to stay at a friend’s house later than you normally might while you grab dinner and a movie. Tell him you will come by after the movie and he can decide if he wants to go home with you or spend the night with his friend. Send his favorite pj’s and security object with him, then follow through with your promise. (Don’t be too surprised if your child is fast asleep when you arrive for pick up).

Always assure a young sleepover guest that he can go home whenever he wants to. Make sure cell phone numbers are exchanged with the other parents. If you get the “Help! I want to go home” call, don’t embarrass your child by calling him a baby or degrading him in other ways. Always let your child know that he or she can try another time.

If your child is reticent to sleep at a friend’s house, offer to hold the sleepover at your house. (After his first sleepover, my son said he would never do that again, but that everyone else was welcome to sleep at his house. In the intervening years since, he has done many sleepovers at friends’ houses).

Co-ed or not co-ed?

Co-ed sleepovers have increased in popularity in recent years. Is this right for your child?

Your youngest sleepover guests will likely show little interest in the fact that the opposite sex is present, but upper elementary grades-plus might. The older the children, the more tight rules need to be established and followed i.e.: a separate place for each sex to change clothes and to sleep; an adult must be present at all times, etc.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to co-ed sleepovers?

Advantage for older children: Older boys and girls who like to hang out together find the party can continue in a healthy way. Tweens and teens can learn how to responsibly interact while being honest with parents about their whereabouts.

Advantage for younger children: Children see that the opposite sex is not just for dating (a benefit for older children as well); boys and girls can enjoy the same innocent party games and develop trust and friendship, important qualities in developing romantic relationships as they grow into the teen years.

Disadvantages: Let’s face it. Older boys and girls sleeping in close proximity could make for an uncomfortable situation or worse. Younger children might develop a casual attitude about sleeping with a friend of the opposite sex later on.

Gannett News Service

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