Without a doubt, one of the biggest struggles for us as parents this past year has been watching the effect social deprivation has had on our kids. Had the pandemic not turned our lives upside down last March, our weeks would have been filled with indoor playdates, after-school programs and trips away with other families. Both our boys are really feeling the effects, and I know all of us have become a bit co-dependant. Even though I know they need to start going back out into the world a bit more (whenever that will be), the thought of it definitely gives me anxiety!
Time to play with other kids is a crucial part of childhood development and emotional learning. Within their friendships, children learn valuable life lessons about trust, loyalty, and caring for others. And sending them off to a slumber party at a trusted friend's house can also increase their feelings of independence and confidence outside of their own homes. Something that we're definitely going to have to build on after the past year of togetherness! Lisa Artis, head of The Sleep Council in the UK says 'As parents, we should be building up little chunks of independence that enable our children to manage without us for short stretches of time – and sleepovers are a good way of achieving this in a safe and controlled environment,' she says, adding that sleepovers can also enable children to learn new skills – for example, packing clothes, getting ready for bed without their parents being around, and overcoming separation anxiety.
Sleepovers are such a great bonding activity for children. Even though they see each other at school and on regular playdates, but there's something about being with friends in a home environment and the excitement of a night-time spent together that makes this bonding a deeper experience. And they also build on their social skills and confidence by having to ask their friend's parents for drinks, snacks and where the bathroom is without you there to help them - great for their personal development!
So how do we make children feel confident about going to a slumber party once we all start making our way back out into the world?
- Reassure them that there will be a set plan. A schedule of a craft, a fun dinner and a movie with snacks before bed gives them a routine to focus on.
- Set the scene! All of our slumber party themes have twinkling lights, cozy blankets, soft pillows and lots of fun little touches to give every sleepover a magical feel.
- If your child is going to sleepover at a friend's house, send them with a comforter such as a teddy of their own pillow. Anything with a scent that makes them feel at home.
- Make it a 'sleep-under'! We can set up our tents for a full sleepover, but the kids can head home at 9pm after dinner and a movie. Or, have all the kids come in their pjs and give them the option to stay over if they are fully into it once 9pm rolls around!