How to Support Young Children Through Sleepover Anxiety

Staying at another home can be a stressful experience for children and parents alike. Some young children struggle with sleepover anxiety which can add additional stress to the situation when they’ve been invited to stay the night with a friend. It is important to help children navigate heavy feelings such as anxiety, even at a young age. This article will breakdown some helpful tips for parents of young children who struggle with sleepover anxiety. 

5 Strategies to Help Young Children with Sleepover Anxiety

Even though sleepovers can be a lot of fun for some kids, they can cause some anxiety for others. Being away from home overnight may prove to be stressful for a number of reasons. Although there is no rush for kids to spend the night at another home for the first time, it can be helpful to guide children through this anxiety once they reach a certain age rather than avoiding sleepovers altogether. Here are a few tips to help.

  1. Plan their first sleepover carefully.
  2. Openly discuss any fears that your child has.
  3. Practice gentle encouragement.
  4. Discuss what to expect.
  5. Let them know how proud you are. 

Plan their first sleepover carefully

It is important to be mindful when planning your child’s first sleepover. Pay attention to certain cues to ensure that they are ready before sending them to stay over at another home. If thrown into the sleepover environment too quickly, children may have a difficult time and it could be hard to get them motivated to try again in the future. Wait until your child is showing independence and excitement regarding sleepovers. It can be helpful to have a friend stay over at your house first to see if your child is able to handle it. Some children will do better staying with one friend, while others may thrive in a larger group setting. 

Openly discuss any fears that your child has

If your child is seeming very reluctant to go stay the night at a friends house, it is helpful to practice some strong communication. Ask them what their fears are to help them navigate these feelings. By talking through fears you can help your child by going over some “what if” scenarios and helping them formulate a plan to handle these situations. Working through hypotheticals can help diffuse some of their fears and may even help them realize that what they’re worried about really isn’t that big of a deal. 

Practice gentle encouragement

Trying to force your child into a sleepover when they clearly aren’t comfortable with it is sure to backfire, so we definitely don’t recommend this. However, it is important to gently encourage your child to give the sleepover a shot. If you can tell that your child has reached an age when they’re ready for a sleepover but they’re still expressing a lot of reluctance, this probably means that they have some fears holding them back. By helping them navigate their anxious feelings and push through them, you can help them see the importance of getting out of their comfort zone — an important concept that they can apply to a variety of future situations.

Pay close attention to your child and how you approach their anxiety because you don’t want to be too pushy about making them go to a sleepover if they’re reluctant. There’s a good chance that your child may express excitement about the sleepover and then show some last minute reluctance. Talk to them about why it would be fun to still show up and remind them that it is normal to want to back down at the last minute but they’ll likely be glad they gave it a shot. 

Discuss what to expect

Help your child prepare for their sleepover by going over what they might expect. You can even talk with the host parents ahead of time to get an idea of how many kids will be there and any activities that they have planned. Figure out what essential items your child will need to bring and be sure to send them fully prepared with pajamas, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and any other items that they might need. If your child is feeling really nervous, you can plan a time for a check in phone call for the two of you to talk, before going to sleep is always a good time. Just having the plan in place to talk over the phone may be enough to ease your little one’s anxiety, and they may end up having so much fun that they don’t even feel the need to call you.

Let them know how proud you are 

You should definitely make it a point to acknowledge the effort that your child is putting in to push past their fears and get out of their comfort zone. Let them know how proud you are of them and recognize that getting past anxious feelings is never an easy task. Instill in them the importance of going through these difficult experiences to feel stronger and let them know that it will get easier with each sleepover that they attend. 

Sleepover anxiety is a common challenge amongst young children. Being away from home overnight can be incredibly scary to some kids, especially in the beginning. As a parent, you can help children navigate their nervous feelings by supporting them and communicating with them. It is important to pay attention and wait until your child seems fully ready for their first sleepover, especially if they are acting anxious about it. Figure out what their fears are and help them work through these fears by going through some “what if” scenarios and formulating a plan. Schedule a phone call shortly before bedtime to check in with your child and to give them a chance to let you know how they’re feeling. 

With time, sleepovers will likely get easier, even for anxious children. The right amount of patience and support can help you better support your young child. 

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