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Preparing Kids for their First Sleepover

Is your school age child is ready for this rite of passage? Here's how parents can determine when a kid ready – and ease some of the anxiety.

Late night snacks. Games. Gossiping. Going to sleep past bedtime. These are all vital components of the time-honored tradition of going to a sleepover. Every parent remembers those super fun nights. And it's now time for your children to experience their first sleepover.

But how do you know if you child is ready? What rules should you talk about with your child? And what should you prepare them for?

Ready for sleepovers?

The age at which you allow your children to stay the night at a friend's house is completely up to you.

"It depends on the maturity of the child. You have to look at how they interact with other children," says Charles Jax, a child counselor in Warren, Michigan.

There are children who are 9 or 10 that are very mature – and there are some that are not, Jax adds.

For a parent, there are a lot of factors that go into making the decision.

"My daughter was asking to spend the night at friends' houses from the time she was around 6," says Gretchen Milfleur of Brighton Township. "But my son was a whole other issue. He was 12 years old getting pressure from friends because he didn't want to be away from home at night."

Separation fears

If your child has separation anxiety, there are options to help resolve the issue.

If your child is a little uneasy about the idea of sleeping somewhere else, it can help to buy him something for the event. A sleeping bag, a new board game or a fun pair of slippers can be just the thing to get kids excited.

You can also make sure your child takes along a treasured item he already has, like a blanket or stuffed animal, to give him a sense of having piece of home with him.

Let your child know what you will be doing the night he is away, too.

"This provides a sense of security for the child," says Lana Polarolo-Vescio, a Troy psychotherapist.

In some cases, a counselor also can help ease the transition of a child being comfortable with leaving mom and dad for the night.

Key comfort factors

However, the most important thing to help you and your child feel comfortable about a first sleepover is to be sure you know the family he'll be staying with really well.

"I need to know the parents, the neighborhood, the siblings – and have a discussion with my child before sending him or her over," says Diane Nancarrow, a mother who lives in West Bloomfield. "I need to know if my child has the skills to be in a strange household overnight, help to imagine what it might be, and have a safety net/rescue plan if needed."

And let your child know that if they're really uncomfortable or unhappy, they can call you to come get him or her.

"Let your child know that you would be glad to," says Polarolo-Vescio.

You don't want your child to be afraid or ashamed to call, she says. On the other hand, you do want to encourage him on embracing this significant stage in independence.

"When a kid spends the night at someone's house, it really hits you," says Milfleur. "They are not your baby anymore."

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