How can I tell if my kindergartner is ready for a sleepover at a friend's house?

How can I tell if my kindergartner is ready for a sleepover at a friend's house?

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That depends a lot on your child's comfort level. It's easy to be brave during the daytime, but 5-year-olds still tend to regress a bit around bedtime, and that's when a child wants the security of home. That said, there are some exceptions, even at this age. Many kindergartners may have already spent overnights at family members' homes or at grandma and grandpa's house when you were away, so they may be ready for a sleepover and will think it's a treat.

Still, you'll want to assess whether your kindergartner is really ready for a sleepover. If he has an elaborate bedtime routine, needs your comfort during the night, or clings or cries when you leave him, you may want to postpone a sleepover — for everyone's sake. And if your kindergartner still wets the bed, talk with him and with the host's parents beforehand so that a bed-wetting incident won't be traumatic or embarrassing for anyone (you might also pack a pair of training pants in his overnight bag for him to wear to bed).

After thinking through all of these issues, if your child's really not ready to spend a night away from home, try a practice run instead. Send your pj-clad, sleeping-bag-toting kindergartner to a relative's home for a few hours of nighttime fun, chatting, and snacking. By 9 p.m., pick him up; then everyone can get some sleep.

On the other hand, if your child seems ready for a night away, and he's eager to try it, then go for it. You'll want to do your homework, of course: It's always a good idea to meet with the host's parents ahead of time (or talk with them on the phone) to make sure your child will feel safe and comfortable. Talking with the parents first also allows you to address any of your concerns, for instance, making sure there aren't any guns in the house and determining that the parents will use good judgment in offering age-appropriate activities to the kids, such as movies that aren't too terrifying.

Just make sure he understands that he can come home at any time — all he has to do is call. (You'll want to stay at home or keep your cell-phone handy so he can reach you.) Answer any of your child's questions beforehand, such as where he'll sleep, and then help him get ready for the big occasion (don't forget to pack his stuffed animal or blanket for extra security). When you drop him off, explain that you'll pick him up after breakfast. Call your child around bedtime, if you think he might find that comforting. If that's likely to trigger tears or make him anxious, let him decide whether or not he wants to talk with you before he goes to sleep. Chances are, he'll be having so much fun with his friends that he'll scamper happily off to bed...but not necessarily off to sleep!

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