A Night Away: Children and Sleepovers, Homesickness & Beyond

After the endless nights of an infant’s wails for food – or the constant struggle of dominating bed space with a toddler – you are probably ready for a night without your kids.

Sleepovers are great for your children but you need to be mindful and cautious before dropping them off for a night away from home. Here are some things to consider before sending your little one off for a sleepover:

Separation Anxiety

While your little one is beginning to bravely explore and experience the world, they still rely on you to provide comfort and safety. This reliance may create a strong attachment to you.

When sending your little one off to a friend or relatives for the night, your child may exhibit separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is a normal part of your child’s early development and can manifest as crying, tantrums or being clingy. These are healthy reactions to separation that usually begins before your little one’s first birthday and may occur off and on until about 4 years old.

Keep this mind when considering sending a younger child off to a sleepover. A child under the age of 4 is not likely going to feel comfortable overnight at another house – unless it is someone they are super comfortable with.

If your child is still preschool aged, try having them spend the night at a close family member’s house. Be prepared, however, to pick them up during the night if the experience is too overwhelming.

Preparing Your Child for a Sleepover

Children thrive on expectation and may not do well with changes or surprises in their routine.

If you are planning on having your little one stay over at someone else’s house, you need to prepare them. And, depending on their age, how you prepare them is very important.

Infants and Babies. Because babies still require regular feeding, you are going to want to make sure you send along enough breast milk for the night. Also, your absence may cause real fear and upset since there’s no explaining to an infant what a sleepover is and how it’s not a permanent arrangement. Expect inconsolable behaviour and an emergency pick-up.

Toddlers and Preschoolers. You can try explaining the concept of a sleepover to a small child, but it is best to show them. Try sleeping in the living room or spending a night at a relative’s house together. Let them get comfortable with not sleeping in their own space before you leave them alone in someone else’s.

Kindergarten and Older. By this age it’s likely that your child is going to be asked to spend the night at a friend’s house. Be sure that they are familiar with the friend’s parents and the house they are sleeping in. Be sure that the parents have your phone number in case you need to do a middle-of-the-night pick-up

The Benefits of Sleepover

While sleepovers may simply be a common staple of childhood, there are many benefits that come with having your child sleep over at someone’s else house.

Letting Go. Our primary role of parent is to love and care for our child. We tend to exercise these responsibilities by keeping our little ones close. We will, however, have to eventually set them loose in the big world to take care of themselves. We can ease into this eventuality by allowing them the space to spend the night away from home.

Me Time. Because we give so much to our children, we often forget to give some to ourselves too. Having your child go for a sleepover is the perfect time to reconnect with ourselves, our partners and truly relax

Independence and Trust. We work so hard to keep our little ones safe that we often seem untrustworthy in their abilities to take care of themselves. By letting them go for a night, we are showing them that we trust them and that we encourage their independence.

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