Sleep Over anxiety: How can we help our children?

Some kids love to sleepover at their friend’s house and it can be of absolute delight to them but certain kids do not like staying away from home, even if it’s for one night. While for some kids sleepovers turn out to be one of the most important events of social gatherings, the kids who don’t like sleepovers turn out to be more reserved. The thought that they might need to stay away from home might seem scary. As a consequence, they might suffer from sleepover anxiety. 

There is no right or wrong time for a sleepover. It all depends on the kind of personality and comfort level the kid has. Sleepover anxiety is not usually considered as a huge concern and is quite common among children. Kids with sleepover anxiety are not comfortable with the idea of spending a night alone with a friend, leaving home and parents. Usually, kids in excitement may say yes to the idea of a sleepover but as soon as they reach to the time they have to leave, they start getting anxious and scared usually kids fall ill too.

Now the question ahead of you is how do we help kids suffering from sleepover anxiety?

Do not pressurize the child into having a sleepover –

The foremost thing to do is to understand that the child is not yet ready to have a sleepover, every kid is different due to the individual differences present in each of us. While for some it might not be a cause of concern, other kids might not feel comfortable enough to have one just yet. If you pressurize the kid into having a sleepover, it might make things worse. If the kid has a horrible experience, he/she will not go next time. 

Although usually, sleepover anxiety resolves on its own with time. Just let your kid be comfortable.

Understand the importance of the first sleepover –

The first sleepover is the most important if the experience of the first sleepover is good the child will start developing confidence and will get comfortable with the idea of spending a night away from home. Hence it is very important to make sure the kid is with someone close to him/her.

Validate your child’s fears –

Lots of kids suffer from somatic symptoms – like headaches, stomach aches whenever they have to go 

to a sleepover. If you see that your child is experiencing anxiety or fear at the name of a sleepover, try to validate the child’s feelings by saying “it is okay to feel nervous, I understand it is scary for you” instead of saying ”come on, what’s the worst thing that can happen”. Try and normalize his/her fears so that the child understands that he/she is not alone. When you will validate your child’s fears the child will feel closer to you and it will help him to understand that whatever he is feeling is okay. This will also help the child to understand the root cause of his/her fear.

Make the child understand what to expect –

Talk to your kid about how all families have rules that might not be in accordance with yours. Tell the child that it is okay to have different rules. Make him/her understand that not everyone has the same values and beliefs and make your child understand to respect other’s values and believes even if they are not in sync with yours.

Help them to face their fears –

After the child is ready for a sleepover but is still nervous about it, take baby steps to work on his/her fears. For example- before letting him/her go to a friends house, make the child stay maybe at grandparent’s house. This will help the child to understand what it is like to spend a night somewhere other than home.

Talk about how they feel –

Talk to your child about his/her feelings regarding the sleepover. Validate your child’s feelings and make it clear that it is okay to be scared and that he/she doesn’t have to do it if he/she does not want to. Emphasize that it is going to be okay and that you are just one call away. Genuinely listen to your child’s feelings and understand it through their perspective.

Appreciate their efforts –

Appreciate your child’s efforts even if the child does not go through with the sleepover, tell him/her “It is okay to be scared” and “ I am proud of you for trying”, “you’re a strong boy/girl”. These statements mean a lot to your child and will contribute to building his confidence and the child will not feel like he/she has to ashamed for not being able to stay over like other kids. 

All of us must have been through this phase where we feel uncomfortable sleeping in a new environment, at a relative’s or a friend’s place. We toss and turn but do not feel rested. Let’s connect the dots and ask ourselves, “did we have sleep over anxiety?”

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