Tackling the sleepover

While fun for kids, slumber parties can be a source of stress for parents

Practical Parenting Parenting Commentator / July 19 2018

In theory, they sound so innocuous. A fun sleepover with friends, lollies, popcorn and a movie.

But sleepovers are a huge source of stress for parents, with 89 per cent reporting that they worry when their kids stay over at a friend’s house. Indeed, one of the biggest concerns is not knowing the other parents, according to research by schoolparents.com.au.

So how do you balance your child’s wishes with your need to keep them safe? Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson guides us through the issue...

What checks should parents do when their child wants a sleepover?
It can be tough to ask another adult how they plan to keep your child safe without sounding judgmental. The easiest way to approach a parent is to be honest and a little vulnerable. Say something like: ‘We are nervous about our child coming to stay. We’ve let her know that if she’s worried, she can call us at any time. Will that be OK?’ Questions to parents about safety, internet usage, movie guidelines, alcohol and intimacy are important, but so is what you tell your child.

What conversations should you have with your child before a sleepover?
Ask your children how they feel about the sleepover. What do they know about the family? Are there older siblings? Provide clear instructions and remind them to stay away from anything that conflicts with your family’s standards and values. Tell them not to go into anyone’s room except their friend’s room. Make sure they know they can call you any time.

How can you support children who have a sleepover at your place?
Show them around. Reassure them that if they need anything, you’re there to help. Be clear about rules. Let them know that if they need their parents, you’ll happily call them. Give them great food. Check on them occasionally (with a big smile).

I grew up in New Zealand, moved to London in my early 20s to work on British newspapers then moved to Australia when I was pregnant with my first child. I write a newspaper column, celebrity interviews and a parenting page. I also do TV and radio commentary, podcasting and host corporate events. I’ve also published a book on parenting, The Smallest Things. However, my greatest role ­­– and the one I’m most proud of – is parenting my daughters, Eliza and Lilibelle, who are 17 and 14.