What is the right age for a sleep-over? My 4-year-old son was invited to his cousin's house -- is that appropriate? And this might be a different question (because I trust my sister's family), but how do I broach the "touching" issue? I've said make sure that you tell mommy or daddy if he feels uncomfortable. Is that enough?
From: Valerie, Winchester, MA
That's a little young; 6 or 7 is more typical.
But sleep-overs at relatives' homes are the best way to begin this quaint social custom (it's such an American rite of passage!), assuming this is a home where the child is already comfortable, and knows the people love him.
The key is that he wants to go. If he doesn't, I would never do it; wait until he's ready. Sometimes older cousins talk a younger child into wanting to go, and that's OK, if everyone understands that's what's happening. But if he tells you privately, "I don't want to, mama" -- or he changes his mind at the last minute -- help him bow out gracefully: "That's OK, when you're ready, we can try," and tell them, "You know what? John isn't ready." Period, matter of fact, end of topic, even if it's on the afternoon of the sleepover.
Of course, you have to feel good about it, too. Make it clear that he can come home if he wants to, at any point, and make that clear to the hosting parents, relative or not, so they don't feel badly calling you in the middle of the night.
The touching issue is a separate conversation. If you've never had it and you are suddenly having it because he's sleeping out, it may come across as strange. By 4 and 5, it's time to have that conversation, regardless. I love the idea of teaching about personal space but keeping your child safe from inappropriate touching starts with matter-of-factly identifying the private parts of the body.
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