Countless times over the past few years we have talked to our daughter about sleepovers. Usually, it starts with her telling us that she is going to have a sleepover at one of her friend’s house. Sure, you have that sleepover, we say. It will be fun, we say. Then she usually forgets, and we move on knowing the sleepover won’t happen for years. Well, that day finally came and it was time for her first sleepover.
She was so excited because instead of a sleepover with just one friend, she had a lot, a real slumber party! And her first sleepover won’t be at a friend’s house, it would be at our school! She will be having a pizza party and playing games all night and then sleeping with her classmates at school. We were so glad that her first sleepover was going to be at school with a bunch of other kids and teachers. We had no idea how she would do, so this was like a test run in a controlled environment.
Would she make it through the whole night? Or would I have to make a drive up to the school at midnight to pick her up? We didn’t know how it would go! But there are a few things that we did ahead of time to make sure she was prepared for the event. Here’s the strategy:
- Talk it out: My plan was to have a nice long conversation with her about what happens during a sleepover, so she knows what to expect. I was able to gauge if she has any fears or worries about it, and then make a plan to address those issues. There is a fine line between talking about things that could be problems and planting the seeds of fear in kids. The last thing I wanted to do is make her nervous about something that she had been looking forward to.
- Discuss with the host parent/teacher too: Since this was her first sleepover, it’s probably a good idea if we let her teacher know that we aren’t sure what to expect. This way, her teacher can be on the lookout to make sure our daughter is having a good time.
- Be prepared: I was ready for a late-night call, just in case. I think my daughter will be ok, but on the off chance she has a bad dream or too nervous to stay at school. I was ready to go pick her up. That means making sure my phone is near me and turned up loud enough to wake me up (I usually have it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ overnight). Also, as painful as it would be to get up in the middle of the night, I told myself I’m going to make sure not to give her a hard time if I had to pick her up. We don’t want her to be ashamed to call us to be picked up, or ashamed that she was afraid or homesick.
- Praise! – We planned on going out for a special breakfast the next morning after the sleepover (we will have to be up early to pick her up anyway). We wanted her to have all the memories that we had of growing up with sleepovers, tell us all about the fun she had, and praise her on a job well done. We know this will help reinforce that she is growing up and can handle herself for a night away from home without her parents. Even if it breaks our hearts that she is growing up too fast!
So, how did she do? Great! She was a champ and had the best time at her very first sleepover. As we buckled her into the car the next morning, she kept saying “I did it! I did it!” There are few things she could say that would make me more proud than that. We did learn one more thing the day after the sleepover that is my number one tip: no matter how big your kiddo is, they’re never too old for a nap after a long night out at a slumber party. Do everyone in your house a favor and add that to the plan!
Parents Corner is a glimpse into life at Lake Forrest Preparatory School. Reid Nichols is the dad of two children who attend LFPS.