By Daddy Nickell
As you know every child is different, and with that being said some children might encounter sleepover anxiety. Don’t fret though. You can help them succeed and move beyond their anxiety to enjoy in this fun and exciting childhood ritual. With seven kids of my own I’ve learned some tricks over the years that have helped each of my children make it through the night away from home successfully.
Talk to Them: I am a firm believer in the importance of talking openly and honestly with children. Ask them to tell you why they have anxiety. Share stories from your own past with them and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Let them know that you are extremely proud of them and that you are never more than a phone call away; if they need to call you in the night they certainly can. Be patient and listen to what they’re actually saying – you might be surprised by what they’re telling you. Then be sure to comfort them through their anxieties. Remember to put yourself in their shoes and think about how difficult and scary these new experiences can be for children; this will help you better understand their concerns.
A Special Item: Help your child pick out a special item that they can bring with them to their sleepover. The item can be something they will wear overnight, something that reminds them of home – or even a family photograph that they can keep in their pocket. This special something will make them feel safer and more at home in a different environment and can ultimately make all the difference for a successful sleepover. Some items I suggest include: a pair of mom or dads socks, a special stuffed animal, a locket, etc.
Share Routine with Parents: Prior to the sleepover, and without your child’s knowledge (if possible), get in contact with the parents of the child your son or daughter will be staying the night with. Discuss with those parents – very sensitively – your child’s anxieties and share with them some of your child’s routines. For example, if your child likes to watch a special television show at a certain time every Friday night ask the other parents if they wouldn’t mind incorporating that activity into the sleepover to help make your child feel more comfortable, at-home and routine.
No Pressure: It’s important to encourage your child to attend a sleepover but not to pressure them into it. If they are not comfortable or are doing it solely to please you they won’t likely have an enjoyable time. Let them know you’re behind them no matter what they decide. And if they do decide to attend the sleepover, don’t be angry if and when they call you in the middle of the night wanting to come home – be patient and understanding, and don’t be afraid to try it again. Your child might lose anxiety over time, so encourage them to keep trying if necessary.
Sleepovers can be a blast, but not for a child who is nervous or anxious about the happenings. Do your best to help your child feel confident and excited about sleepovers with these tips!
Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of 7, offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of Daddyscrubs.com, delivery room duds and daddy gifts and apparel, and the DaddyScrubs blog where he covers topics about parenting all from a Dad’s perspective.