Help! Is there a key to sleepover success

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

We were hurtling off in the Uber before the dust on her sneakers, now kicked off at her friend's front door, had even had time to settle.

"Don't look back! This is our new life," we chortled, high-fiving each other in the back seat.

You see our eight-year-old daughter was off on a sleep over, at last - and at last, we were off to pop the champagne cork for a long awaited "date night."

I'm sure many parents of kids around this age, are reading this and thinking, wow you're a little late to the party.

Yep, over the last nine years, we could probably count the number of late-night rendezvous we've had sans child, on two hands.

You see, we've got one of those children, who despite her adorability factor, fierce independence and sassy know how has been somewhat resistant to any form of "sleep" from the "get go". If you're reading this and silently thinking "OMG nine years!" don't despair, it is getting easier. The idea of sleeping at someone else's house though, well that's always been something just out of reach. 

Call it anxiety, living the first chunk of her life overseas, missing mum and dad, or just being her…whatever it is, it's perfectly OK by us. We're past the point of worrying about it too much now and have vowed to just keep trying, when she's ready.

But Dr Laura Kirmayer PhD, a clinical psychologist says there is definite value in successful sleepovers for kids who are anxious.

"If they overcome the fear of sleeping outside the safety and comfort of their own home," she says, "there can be real significant advantages in feeling confident and increasing self-esteem."


She lists a few ways you can help alleviate your child's anxiety like camping out in the backyard and hosting sleepovers at your house and or relatives.  

The thing is, now it's time for school camp. Yep, in Year Three! Cue: heart palpitations, from me.

I don't recall going much further than the school gate in Year Three, but of course things have changed since the dark ages. Luckily for our kids, there are now so many more amazing opportunities to be had.

Of course, our small person is utterly pumped. So pumped, she's been wanting to pack for the event since 2017.

I am quietly praying to the Sleep Gods, that they will intervene on our behalf and ensure bedtime is smooth sailing. We've tried to prep her well in advance, doing all the right things, according to the experts.

In the past we've arranged for her to stay at her friend's house until bedtime, so she isn't worrying all evening about whether she'll be able to stay all night.

We've asked her what might help her feel more connected to us when we're not there. Sometimes it's involved trying a phone call before bed or sending her off with a photo of us. Neither really do the trick, instead only making her miss us more. Some encourage parents to leave little notes for their kids, but for us, this only creates more homesick feelings. Basically, it's about figuring out the best balance for your child.

Experts say, be prepared to pick them up at 2:00 in the morning if they can't sleep, or wake up in a panic, at least for the first few times. Let your child know that if he or she does try staying all night and can't make it, someone will be happy to come and get her. Knowing there's a backup plan if he or she genuinely panics will make it easier to give sleepovers another chance.

Hence the recent sleepover at our small person's bestie's place. It all started out swimmingly, it usually does… but as I sipped my third champagne, I knew the night was yet to be ours.

Just as we settled in and started to relax, my phone beeped. There'd been a blip, at the eleventh hour. Sleep was not forthcoming, and nor did it look likely. Tears on the other hand were. The hysterical kind. After a phone call and a chat, we knew enough to understand a situation like this is unlikely to rectify itself.

So, we did what we've done before, gave each other the look, one last "cheers" and hailed an uber to take us home, VIA her bestie's house.

We played it down as she came out cheeks tear stained clutching her piggie. "No big deal, chicken, let's go home. We'll try again another day." If at first you don't succeed, well there's always next time.