This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Following story was published in the Bend Bulletin this week:
A good night's sleepover: With the right preparation and guidelines, your kids can
have fun during this rite of passage http://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120120/NEWS01/201200323/1026/ FEAT01 By Alandra Johnson The Bulletin Eating popcorn, watching movies and giggling. Lots and lots of giggling. Throw in some pajamas and sleeping bags and you have the recipe for a sleepover. Sleepovers are often considered a rite of passage for kids — especially girls — but they are not without issues.Sleepovers can seem scary for younger children uncertain of a new house and new situations. Sleepovers for older kids — especially large group affairs — can be fraught with drama and infighting. Parents may wonder if it's worth it. For Bend mom Heather Buell the answer has been yes. She has six children, ranging in age from 19 to 2. She has fielded her share of calls in the middle of the night from children who were scared and wanted to come home. Buell cautions parents to “make sure you are going to be available to pick them up if they need to come home.”But despite those nocturnal disruptions, she still thinks sleepovers are beneficial, overall. “I think sleepovers help socialize your child,” said Buell. “They help with separation anxiety. They help them to learn it's OK to be separate from your parents.” Being prepared — for parents and kids alike — can help ensure sleepover success.
“Definitely, it's beneficial. It can be a very positive experience,” said Elizabeth Elizardi, a New Orleans-based parenting coach and founder of More of Me life coaching practice. “It can really galvanize the bonds of friendship.” Elizardi says sleepovers can be powerful experiences for kids. They get to “step out of their world and into someone else's.” They get to experience being around other adults while learning skills like cooperation and sharing. Ronit Baras, international parenting expert and author of “Be Special, Be Yourself for Teenagers,” says sleepovers let kids learn about what happens in other people's homes and gain new perspectives. They learn new ways of going to sleep, new ways of eating dinner. In this way, Baras says, kids test their flexibility. Something powerful happens during this intimate time frame that involves sleeping, breakfast and getting ready for the day — people are “very transparent and very exposed.” Often, she says, kids end up behaving better when they stay somewhere else than they do at home. Baras says sleepovers can also help “children separate from parents in a safe way.” Sending a child on his or her first sleepover can be a bit nerve-wracking for parents. “It's very
normal to feel anxious,” said Debbie Glasser, Virginia licensed clinical psychologist and author of “New Kid, New Scene.” Parents are letting their kids out from under their own watchful eyes. “It can be really scary to let go.” But Glasser also says parents need to keep in mind that this is one small step on the ladder of independence. “I remind parents it doesn't make sense to go from constantly-with-you to adulthood.”
Barbara Greenberg, Connecticut clinical psychologist, author of “Teenage as a Second Language” and founder of www.talkingteenage.com, says sleepovers are a rite of passage that can be good for kids — but she offers a strong caveat. These benefits are only true if you know the other parents and the other family. Greenberg says some sleepovers do not involve a lot of supervision and this can lead to trouble. Buell agrees that she “wouldn't just let our kid go and spend the night with anybody.” They have to know the other parents well prior to any sleepover. Sometimes children aren't ready for the sleepover and end up feeling scared. These kids often end up calling Mom or Dad late at night to come take them home. Elizardi says another risk is that kids come home having learned a new, perhaps inappropriate, word, or having watched a movie their parents wouldn't have let them watch. “The downside is the other family may have different values.” Around fifth grade, peer pressure can kick in, says Elizardi. This can lead to some issues at sleepovers involving teasing, bullying and gossiping. Elizardi also says parents should also be ready for their child to be tired and cranky the day after a sleepover. A one-on-one sleepover is very different from a large group event, according to Baras. She says young children have a hard time managing giving attention to different friends at the same time. When children are a little older, say between 9-12, they may be able to handle having three or four friends with adult support. Larger than that can lead to trouble. Greenberg says, “People do meaner things when they are in groups.” Large groups inevitably split off into smaller cliques, she says. And this can lead to kids being left out or teased.
Parents often ask Glasser how old kids should be before they begin sleepovers. “The answer is always, ‘It depends,' ” said Glasser. Some children may be ready at 5, while others wouldn't be ready by 11. To evaluate their children, Glasser says parents may want to think about how independent and adaptable they are. Elizardi says kids should be sleeping independently without bathroom accidents or regular nightmares or night terrors. Greenberg offers a more conservative view of sleepovers, saying she doesn't recommend them until a child is 11 or 12 (unless the child is staying with a relative or is particularly mature). That way the child is able to communicate well with parents should something negative transpire. If a child isn't ready to stay somewhere else, they could still be ready to host a sleepover. Glasser also says if a child isn't interested in sleepovers, that's not a big deal. Parents may want to “look for other ways to nurture independence.”
There are steps parents can take to help prepare their kids for their first sleepover. Glasser
suggests practicing with an “unsleepover.” The child can invite a friend over (or go to the other child's house) and spend the evening together, put on pajamas, watch a movie, but then go home by 9 or 10 p.m. This event can feel special, but removes some of the anxiety of bedtime and sleeping. Another way to practice is by sleeping over at a grandparent's or relative's home — or even putting a sleeping bag down in a sibling's room. Ideally a first sleepover would not be a group setting and would be one-on-one, says Glasser. More kids means having to navigate trickier dynamics. Parents should also let kids know that it's OK if they need to call and come home. Glasser suggests prepping a child by talking to them about what to expect — they may be sleeping on the floor, for instance. If hosting, parents can remind a child that their friend may want to go home early and that's OK. The host child should also be prepared to share his or her things. Prior to a group sleepover, parents should talk to the child about expectations, says Elizardi, including the rule that “everybody is going to be treated fairly.” She says the ground rules should be clear to the child as well as the kids attending the party. Before a child sleeps at a friend's house, Glasser says, it is important that parents feel comfortable with the other family. She suggests going out to coffee beforehand or doing something to really get to know them.
Limiting the number of children allowed to sleep over at one time is one good way to prevent some of the negative aspects associated with large sleepovers. “I would think twice about having a very large group of kids sleeping over,” said Glasser. Once you get, say, 15 girls together, “typically those don't go so well.” Glasser says it's a matter of too many personalities and too many needs. Elizardi says five or six kids is manageable — beyond that it gets chaotic. During the sleepover, Glasser suggests parents check in and make sure kids are getting along. Younger children will need more supervision, but parents should also keep tabs on older kids. Elizardi says parents may also want to offer a few activities or some structure to sleepovers, even for older kids. “When kids are bored, misbehavior happens,” said Elizardi. Teens shouldn't just be sitting around. Staying up past bedtime is one of the fun parts of a sleepover, but it is also something that parents should keep within reason, says Glasser. Once kids get tired, they can become cranky, which can lead to trouble. She suggests letting kids know in advance when lights out will be. Then parents can turn off the lights and call for “heads in beds,” but allow quiet talking. If it goes on for too long, parents can offer a reminder to go to sleep. For teens Sleepovers involving teenagers can be very different from those involving 8-year-olds. Greenberg cautions parents against letting their teens stay over at people's houses too frequently. She has seen a trend of teens using sleepovers “as a way of avoiding their parents.” They stay with a friend whose parents are not as observant — parents who do not stay up when teens come in from a party to smell their breath or check their eyes. “It's a way of getting to go to parties,” said Greenberg. Greenberg recommends talking to the other parents involved — this is harder in teen years, when parents often have less contact with each other because teenagers are driving themselves. She suggests parents try to suss out their feelings about alcohol. She suggests saying something like “I certainly hope there is not going to be drinking” and then listen to what the other parents say.
Greenberg says parents need to ask the question — because some parents feel it is OK for kids to drink alcohol at home. When it comes to group sleepovers, Greenberg says parents need to be mindful of the use of technology. Teens may want to go on Facebook and post nasty comments or send out mean text messages. Parents should make their expectations clear. Greenberg has also seen a trend of coed sleepovers and discourages the practice, saying “there is no reason for them.” Getting sleep is also important for teenagers, just as it is for younger kids. Greenberg says parents should try to ensure teens get some sleep; she knows of several driving accidents that happened when a sleep-deprived teen tried to drive home in the morning. But with the right kind of parental supervision and expectations, sleepovers for kids of all ages can be a good thing. So long as they bring a pillow for the pillow fight. -----From bendbulletin.com - published daily in Bend, Oregon, by Western Communications, Inc. Copyright 2005.