Tips for Successful Overnights with Grandparents

tips-for-successful-overnights-with-grandparentsIf you’ve ever relied on grandparents to help care for your kids, either on a regular basis or in a pinch, you know how wonderful extended family can be.  If you happen to live miles and miles away from grandparents, you know how hard it is to build the connection between your children and their grandparents.

A close bond with a grandparent is an incredible gift.  Sure, grandparents tend to be fun and bend the rules from time to time.  And yes, they have extra time to devote to simply playing.  But above all, a bond with a grandparent signifies an added relationship based on unconditional love.  And that is worth building.

A sleepover at a grandparent’s house is an excellent opportunity to strengthen that bond.  But, depending on the child, it might require some planning.

Tips for successful overnights with grandparents:

Assess the scene:

Even though your child has probably spent countless hours at her grandparent’s house, things look different at night.  A room that is fun and full of toys during the day might cast some scary, unfamiliar shadows when the lights go down.

Scan the room to look for objects that might look different at night.  Discuss it with your child.  Pack an extra nightlight.

Make sure that there is a clear path from the bed to the bathroom and plenty of light along the way should your child need to get up during the night.

Pack comforts from home:

You might think that your child only needs one transitional object or lovey for an overnight, but you might want to double check with your child on that one.  Particularly if your child tends to worry at night, it’s better to have too many comfort items than not enough (blankets, favorite pjs, and soothing music can help).

You want a comfortable, successful sleepover.  Include your child in the packing to ensure a positive experience.

Review the routine:

Many children follow a certain bedtime routine each night.  Write it down for the grandparents.  While the routine probably won’t be exactly the same away from home, providing a general sketch gives the grandparent a guide in case your child starts to become overtired or homesick.  Routine often signifies safety for young children.

Be sure to leave lists of specific allergies, medications, or other medical necessities.

Consider physical safety:

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If you have a child who tends to wander during the night or falls out of bed regularly, assess for safety measures. 

Young children can become confused at night if they wake in an unfamiliar or different bed.  Gates at the top of the stairs, hall lights, and bed rails can help ensure safety.

Be positive:

It’s hard to leave kids somewhere else for the night, even if you’re really looking forward to that date night!

Talk about all of the fun things your child will do and the amazing meals she might have at Grandma’s.  Help her think of fun games to play and things to do (forts, inside camping, and s’mores come to mind) so that she’s excited for the overnight trip.

Be the safety net:

Did you ever leave a sleepover early when you were a child?  Many kids do.  Wanting to come home in the middle of the night isn’t a sign of a failed sleepover; it’s simply a sign of a child who needs a little more time. 

Consider having the grandparents stay in your home:

Some kids just like the safety of their own homes.  That doesn’t mean that they will never be ready to sleep somewhere else, it just means that they need time to prepare.  Consider having the grandparents stay at your home a couple of times to get your child used to going to bed without you.  Sometimes baby steps can really help the separation process.

How do you help your child prepare for overnights? 

What do you think?

Tips for Successful Overnights with Grandparents

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about helping parents enjoy the ride, she provides parent education and simple strategies to take t ... More

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