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Tips for Ensuring Fun and Safe Sleepovers
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Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP posted:
My son had his first sleepover at our house when he was 5 ?. We knew the other child's family well. They lived on our cul-de-sac. We all felt comfortable enough to let the boys try a sleepover. Before that we'd had some of our sons' cousins sleep over and made occasional overnight trips to the grandparents' houses. So I felt we had a few practice sleepovers under our belt.

The age of a first sleepover can vary depending on parental rules and a child's comfort with sleeping away from home. While homesickness isn't like other childhood illness in many ways, it is a common occurrence when kids sleep away from home. Whether your child is headed to a relative's house or a slumber party, it's perfectly normal to feel a little homesick for family and familiar surroundings.

Here are a few tips to ensure that your child can enjoy fun and safe sleepovers, both at home and away:

-- Let your child help decide when he is ready to spend the night at a friend or relative's house.

-- Arrange practice sleepovers. Start in a sibling's room and advance to a relative or neighborhood friend's house.

-- Be positive about upcoming sleepovers. Discuss the fun and excitement he could have, as well as potential feelings of homesickness if sleeping away.

-- Pack a special item such as a pillow, blanket, or toy so your child has a bit of home with him while he is away.

-- Let your children know that it's OK to talk to a friend's parent if they are feeling sick, lonely, or uncomfortable.

-- Make sure you're well acquainted with your child's friend's family. Know that you can trust the supervising adult and that you feel comfortable with their parenting techniques. Alternatively, if there are no conflicts, invite the friend to sleep at your home.

-- Safety is most important. Ask the hosting family about any pool gates, pets, and if there are any guns or weapons in the house. Don't forget to discuss any food allergies or medical conditions that either child has.

-- When hosting a sleepover, plan activities and meals ahead of time. But know that often kids will just play and have fun according to their own agenda.

-- Have a plan for pick up or drop off if things aren't going well.

-- Stay in touch. Make a plan for a good morning phone call or send texts or emails to check in.

-- If she slept away, make coming home fun. Plan a special family activity to welcome your child back home. Ask questions and spend time listening to stories about his sleepover.

With a little preparation and creativity children can enjoy a sleepover. What tips do you have that can help ensure fun and safety for your child's sleepovers?
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