Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sleepovers - When is the right time?

Do your kids have sleepovers? Did you when you were a kid? Sleepovers were a big part of my childhood, starting probably when I was about 9 or 10. I would spend many a Saturday night sleeping over with a friend, whether at my house or hers. In sixth grade I even joined the church choir because, otherwise, my regular Saturday night sleepover with my friend Sue would be lost. She was going, so I had to go too. (Choir was a great decision, by the way. I loved it!)

The Teen started sleepovers when he was about 8. There were a specific couple of friends from school, and we knew the parents. I think he was probably 10 when he had his last sleepover here. We found the sleepovers to be a great way to get to know his friends a bit better, as well as to give him some special time with his friends.

Little Boo? He had his first sleepover at 4. Now, it was with his cousins, so it was a little different, although since we live in different provinces he only sees them for a couple of weeks each year. We were comfortable knowing Little Boo was with my brother and his wife, but we weren't sure he'd be ok without us (ok, without me) for the whole night. He was perfect. Totally at home. He has since had a few sleepovers with friends, including one just last night. In all cases he has been with friends who are the kids of my dear friends, so there have been no issues of concern about parenting or safety. From what we've been told, he's adapted to the routines at the hosting home quite well, whether bedtime or eating routines.

It's amazing how adaptable our kids can be if we give them the chance.

We've used sleepovers so far as a childcare solution, when we've really needed late night or early morning help. We are especially lucky to have such wonderful and supportive friends who are happy to pitch in when needed.

But, whether or not we are benefiting as parents from these arrangements, more importantly, I believe that Little Boo is benefiting from the chance to experience a different routine, and a different dynamic. He is learning independence from his parents, and adaptability to different rules and expectations. He is developing important social skills through extended interactions with other kids and adults. And he is growing relationships with his friends that will serve him well in the years to come.

Every child is different. Every child will be ready for this kind of independence at a different age. But they will at some point be ready to spend the night somewhere else, with other parents to watch over them and keep them safe. It is our job as parents to be open to this development and to understand when it is time to give them a chance to spread their wings. And it is our job to monitor and be aware of where they are staying and who is looking after them. Go with your gut. Trust your instincts. But be open to the possibility that it is time to let your little one spread his or her wings.

When did your kids first go on a sleepover? With family or friends? How well did you know the parents? Let's compare notes!

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