My seven-year-old daughter often has friends over for sleepovers. They have a good time. However, when she is invited out to one, she ends up calling us almost in tears, saying she misses us, and we have to go and pick her up by about 11pm. This has happened a number of times, with different friends. The last time, the host mother seemed quite irritated. As we picked up our daughter, she addressed her directly, saying that her daughter was very disappointed that she was leaving and that she should be a little more considerate or not agree to sleepovers till she is much older and not a “baby”. Was she right in saying this? Should I just stop sending my daughter? Funnily, she begs to go each time.
If your daughter is enthusiastic about going for a sleepover but can’t handle the separation from you, maybe you shouldn’t send her for a few months. Continue calling other girls over, which she is quite happy with. The next time you do decide to send her, tell her that when she feels like coming home before bedtime, she can call you and chat for 5 minutes.
Comfort zone: Give your child something familiar to take along when she next spends time away from you. (Photographh by JupiterImages/ India)
You could also ask the host mother to be with the children for a while, till they settle down for the night. Maybe you can give your daughter something that belongs to you—a brooch or any little bedside thing—and tell her to look at it when she misses you. Do also tell her that you, too, miss her when she is away, but love the idea of her having fun. Point out to your daughter that she is missing out on the fun of waking up with her friends the next morning, having breakfast together, etc., when she comes away.
Some parents choose to go out for a movie or a dinner when their child goes to spend the night with a friend, and they communicate this to the child. This way, while you are still a phone call away, the child is aware that you’re doing other things, and may then decide not to bail out and ask you to come and get her. But it’s your call, whether you want to do this.
Separation and independence from parents are steps that kids must take firmly, without fear and trepidation. So if this takes her a few months longer than it has her friends, don’t fret. Find other times and opportunities in which you and she can be a little apart— that may help her feel secure when she’s away from you.
As for the host mother’s comment and admonishment, well, different families deal with such situations differently. In this case, the host chose to spell out her disappointment about your daughter leaving, which is okay—but perhaps the irritation and the “baby” label were a bit unkind.
However, instead of shielding your daughter completely from this, it’s a good idea to let her understand that she has disappointed someone who was looking forward to her company. Many grown-ups don’t have this understanding in place, and feel free to cancel programmes and “ditch” appointments without taking other people’s enthusiasm into consideration, the minute they want to bail out for any reason. So, it’s something that we do need to inculcate gradually in our kids.
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