A Parent’s Guide to Sleepover Success

Cupcakes...the perfect sleepover food

Oh, the sleepover: yearned for by some, dreaded by many, right of passage for (almost) all.  When a friend emailed me this article from the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, the memories came flooding back.  Late night nacho-making, Ouija board games, sneaking out of basements – it all came back in a rush of Bonne Bell-scented emotion.

I thought the New York Times article was great in that it highlighted many of the serious issues parents need to be aware of when allowing their child to attend a sleepover (“or its cousin the slumber party” – I love that line).  Dr. Perri Klass (the author) wrote about safety concerns, mental health and medication considerations, and basic sleep issues that must be considered before sending your little dear off with only a toothbrush and a sleeping bag.

But as I got reminiscing about my sleepover days of yore (God help me if I ever have to sleep on someone’s floor again) I thought about some other issues that are important to consider as well.  Namely, how does a parent prepare to have a successful sleepover/slumber party at their house?

Here’s my Parent’s Guide to Sleepover Success (to read the version for kids, click here):

  • Keep the numbers small. Forget the “your guest list can equal the age you’re turning” – it’s just too many.  13 screaming 13 year olds will turn even the most patient parent into a screaming maniac.  If you haven’t hosted a sleepover before, start small (like 1-2 invitees) and go up from there.
  • Have plenty of activities. I’m not talking about making teenage boys play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, but have a few back-up activities.  Mani/Pedi’s, re-runs of memorable sports moments, cupcake decorating, build your own pizza, large-scale scavenger hunts – the sky’s the limit.  Besides, you know what they say about idle hands…
  • Keep the food under control. One of the best parts of sleepovers is the food.  It’s sweet, it’s salty, and it’s there all night.  All good things must come to an end, however, and it’s much better that it’s you saying enough is enough, rather than upset stomachs ruining the event.  So have fun with food, but pack it away at a reasonable hour.
  • Set clear expectations. Talk with your party boy (or girl) well before the event so that you both have clear expectations.  For example, how will you deal with partygoers who:

need to go home because of illness or homesickness

sneak out or do other dangerous things

get into fights/bullying situations

Don’t hesitate in having clear and firm expectations, rules, and guidelines – you are the boss after all.

  • Who’s manning the event? When I was growing up, my dad just happened to have a “business trip” whenever a sleepover came around.  This memory brings up an important point: Who’s going to be home for the party? Parents?  Siblings?  Grandparents?  Each person can add a new dynamic to the group, so it’s important to be thoughtful when determining who will be around.
  • The day after. Are there any among us who don’t remember the sleepover-hangover?  I’m not talking about anything related to alcohol here, but everything related to lack of sleep.  Consider instituting a rule in your home something like this:

Sleepover at night = mandatory nap the next day

This can include participants and chaperones – everyone will need it!

Dr. Klass concluded her article by noting that since the 1980’s, sleepovers have become more of a right than a privilege.  This may be true, but  as the parent you can still keep the party from becoming a free-for-all while doing your best to ensure that everyone has  fun!

Ready to plan the best sleepover ever? Make sure to have your kids read A Kids Guide to Sleepover Success before the invitations go out!