Safe and Healthy Sleep

The first overnight stay for your child: everything you need to know

26 Jan, 2022

Staying somewhere else: How do I know that my child is ready?

In principle, there’s no fixed age at which your child is ready to stay somewhere else. For some children this can happen very quickly, while others find it very difficult to stay overnight even at the age of five or six. Since every child has individual needs, it depends more on who and when they stay overnight away from home. In principle, you shouldn't push your child into anything, but wait until they express the wish to spend the night with friends or grandparents.

Who should I let my child stay with?

As soon as your child wants to spend the night somewhere else, you’re probably faced with the question: do we want to allow this or not? Of course, this mainly depends on who your child wants to stay with. You should make your decision primarily based on whether you already know the person(s) and trust them. If this isn’t the case, it’s advisable to get to know the parents of the school friends beforehand. After all, you must have a good feeling when you leave your child "in the hands of strangers". However, it’s important not to act too “overcautious”. At some point you have to learn to let go a little so that your child can learn what it's like to stand on their own two feet. You should only disallow your child to spend the night away if there are legitimate reasons, for example, if you assume that the duty of care is being neglected and the child's well-being is at risk.

What is there to consider beforehand?

Start by talking to your child and reassuring them that they can always call or come back if they’re uncomfortable. You should also talk to the “host family” to find out about the plan and any overnight items they’ll need. To ensure your child feels safe and (almost) at home, they can have their favourite pillow or cuddly toy with them. You should also inform the host family of any allergies your child may have or any medications they may be taking. In case of an emergency, you should also leave your phone number with the host family so that your child can call and come back home at any time in case of doubt.

What belongs in the overnight bag?

So that your child has everything with them to feel comfortable with another family, you should pack an overnight bag at least one evening before. Think of the following things so that they’re well taken care of when you are away:

  • A piece of paper with your mobile or landline number
  • Favourite cuddly toy or cuddly blanket
  • Sleeping clothes (pyjamas, sleeping bag, dummy...)
  • change of clothes
  • Toiletry bag with hygiene items
  • Toys or, for older children, games or films for evening entertainment
  • Things for the bedtime routine (favourite book, night light, bottle, music box, etc.)

Playing host for your children's overnight visits: you have to take this into account

If you’re hosting a child yourself as a "host mum", you don't have to make many preparations. Instead, try to integrate your guest child into your everyday life in a normal way. If problems do arise, it’s important to remain calm and react calmly:

If the children fight among themselves, you should carefully consider whether it’s worth intervening as an adult. Normally, children are fine with each other quickly and the argument is forgotten.

The situation is different if the guest child falls ill or doesn’t feel well for other reasons. Homesickness can also be a reason why your host child is sad. In this case, you can first try to calm down your host child. However, if the situation doesn’t improve or the child's health suddenly deteriorates, it makes sense to inform the parents so that they can pick them up.

What do you do when you find it difficult to let your child go?

As parents, it can be difficult for you to let go. You cope better with the temporary separation from your child by being calm and composed without worrying unnecessarily. Finally, with the "overnight stay away from home" you lay an important foundation for your child to be able to live independently later. It’s therefore best to keep your farewells short, hug your child and let them understand that everything is fine. Also, try to see your child's temporary absence in a positive light: Now you have peaceful moments just for you and can do things that you otherwise hardly have time for.

Tips for a successful slumber party

- With new pyjamas or a new T-shirt, your child is well prepared for a trip away - Maybe there will be a theme party at the host's - a good opportunity to shop together beforehand and increase the anticipation.

- Give the children time to settle in and play. Most of the time, children don't need a "tight schedule" at all, they just want to have fun together and let off steam.

- In summer it’s a good idea to do something outside. When having a barbecue, baking a pizza together or an exciting night hike, time flies by

- If the kids are overtired the next day, don't plan too many activities and give them time to rest instead

- If your child is anxious, canceling the slumber party is absolutely no problem. Especially with younger children, "setbacks" are quite normal and no reason to exert pressure. Instead, you should accompany your child on their first steps towards independence and be there as a contact person at all times - whether at home or on the phone. At some point, the overnight stay away from home will work itself out.