6 Questions Parents Must Ask Before a Sleepover

6 Questions Parents Must Ask Before a Sleepover

Use these smart questions to make sure both you and your child are ready for a sleepover!


By Wendy Robinson

“Mom, can I do a sleepover at Rohan’s house?” My son is 6 years old, and this is the first time I’ve been asked this question. Despite the fact that I loved sleepovers when I was a kid, I found myself feeling rather nervous about the prospect of my little guy spending his first night away from home.

Still, sleepovers are an important rite of passage for children, according to Deborah Gilboa, MD, aka “Dr. G.,” parenting expert and author of Get the Behavior You Want … Without Being the Parent You Hate. Dr. Gilboa notes that “sleepovers are awesome for kids,” because they teach them to be independent, confident, and resilient, and show them how other families work.

I’m definitely in favor of more confident and resilient kids, so I’m open to the idea of Miles’ first sleepover. But I plan to follow Dr. Gilboa’s advice and ask the following questions before I let my kiddo start packing his overnight bag.

1. Is my child ready? Kids should be both physically and emotionally ready before their first sleepover. Physically, they should be able to change into their own pajamas and should be able to stay dry at night (or to put on their own disposable training pants). They should also be out of the phase of having nightmares and should be able to get to sleep without a parent to do their usual nighttime routine.

Emotionally, you’ll want to make sure they are excited about the idea. “Sleepovers are more likely to be successful if it is their idea,” says Dr. Gilboa. And you want to walk them through what to expect in terms of spending the night at someone else’s house.

2. Will the parents be there the whole time? Dr. Gilboa suggests finding out whether the parents will be home the whole time or a babysitter or older sibling will be in charge for part of the night. This will help you prepare your child to know who will help him if there is something he needs. You may also want to clarify if the parent or sitter will be at home the whole night, or if they intend to take the kids out. If so, do they need a booster seat for your child?

3. Are there any safety concerns? It may feel uncomfortable to ask other parents if there are guns in the home (which is one of my personal safety concerns), so Dr. Gilboa suggests asking about multiple safety concerns in one question. For example, “I hope you don’t mind, but I always like to double check: Are any guns in the home, or do you have a pool or trampoline?”

Before asking the question, decide if having guns, a pool, or a trampoline is a deal-breaker for you or if you just need to follow up with questions about gun storage or how they handle pool and trampoline use.

Finally, if you have a child who has any specific fears (like dogs or the dark), you may want to give the other parents a heads-up.

4. What are the TV/computer/media rules? I prefer my son not see movies that aren’t age appropriate, so I’ll usually casually mention, “I’d rather Miles not watch movies that aren’t PG or G, and he gets kind of scared of violent movies, so do you think they’ll be watching anything tonight?”

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For older children, you may want to clarify if the kids will have unsupervised Internet access. If the answers to these questions don’t satisfy you, perhaps consider extending the invitation to have the sleepover at your house instead.

More from P&G everyday: 5 Quick Ways to Calm Down Your Kid

5. What happens if my child gets scared and wants to come home? “Before the sleepover is a great time to set very clear expectations with your child,” notes Dr. Gilboa. “Will you be able to come get them if they get scared?” She suggests using this time to “model good problem-solving” by asking your child to think through different scenarios that might come up and how he can handle them without parental intervention. If you are not able to come get your child (perhaps you are working or going out of town for the night), make sure the other parents know that and are comfortable with it.

6. What is our safe word? Sometimes, a child or teen may be in a situation where he is feeling uncomfortable, threatened, bullied, or unsafe, but may be afraid to talk about it in the moment, Gilboa notes. For that reason, she suggests parents and children set up a “safe” word that the child or teen can use to tell you that it is an emergency, and he needs to get picked up right away, no questions asked. Choose a simple word that is unlikely to come up in a normal, ‘checking in’ conversation (say “bubblegum” or “camping”), and make sure he knows you’ll take him seriously if he uses it.

Then, once the hard questions are out of the way, you can turn your attention to more fun questions, like, “What pajamas should you wear?” and “How much pizza do you think you’ll eat?”

What are your sleepover questions?


Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.com.

Image ©iStock.com/ktaylorg


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