Preparing Your Child for Nights Away from Home

Summer is the perfect time for new adventures, and for many children, this means nights away from home—whether it’s sleepovers with friends, visits to family members, or time spent at summer camp. These experiences are exciting and provide valuable opportunities for independence, socialization, and personal growth. However, it is essential to ensure that your child is prepared both emotionally and practically for these overnight experiences. At Farrell Pediatrics, we want to help you navigate this important milestone with confidence and ease.

Safety First

When it comes to nights away from home, safety is paramount. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  1. Safe Environment: Although it can be challenging to review someone else’s home environment, it’s important to ask questions about supervision levels, household rules, and sleeping arrangements. For sleep away camps, research the camp thoroughly, read reviews, and ensure they have appropriate safety measures in place, such as medical personnel on site, first aid kits and smoke detectors.
  2. Know the Hosts: For sleepovers and visits to family members, make sure you know the family hosting your child. It’s also important to know who else lives in or will be visiting the home during the sleepover. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the household rules, supervision levels, and sleeping arrangements. For camps, get to know the camp staff and counselors, and understand the profile of attendees, including the camp’s policies on supervision and interaction among campers. This knowledge can provide peace of mind and ensure a safer, more enjoyable experience for your child.
  3. Emergency Contacts: Ensure your child knows your phone number and has a list of emergency contacts. For summer camps, provide the camp with updated contact information and any relevant medical details.
  4. Medical Preparedness: If your child has any medical conditions, allergies, or requires medication, discuss this with the hosts or camp staff. Make sure they have a clear understanding of symptoms, any necessary supplies, and an emergency action plan.
  5. Medication Safety: For sleepovers and family visits, inform the hosts about any medications your child needs to take, along with clear instructions. Ensure that medications are stored safely out of reach of other children.
  6. Gun Safety: If your child is going to a sleepover or visiting family members, ask if there are guns in the home and, if so, how they are stored. Ensure that all firearms are securely locked away and inaccessible to children.

Emotional Readiness

Emotional readiness is just as important as physical safety. Here’s how to gauge and support your child’s emotional preparedness:

  1. Open Communication: Talk to your child about what to expect during a night away. Discuss any concerns they might have and address them together.
  2. Trial Run: If your child is anxious about being away from home, consider a trial run. Start with a sleepover at a close relative’s house or a shorter camp session. Another solution to this is the “sleepunder” — also called a “lateover” — where children come to play later in the evening than a typical playdare, but they don’t stay to actually sleep.
  3. Comfort Items: Allow your child to bring a comfort item from home, like a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. This can provide a sense of security and familiarity in an unfamiliar environment.
  4. Encourage Independence: Foster your child’s independence by letting them pack their own bag and make decisions about what to bring. This helps them feel more in control and prepared.

When Is the Right Age?

Determining the right age for sleepovers, family visits, and summer camp varies for each child and depends on several factors:

  1. Maturity Level: Consider your child’s maturity level and their ability to handle being away from home. Some children are ready for sleepovers as early as 5 or 6, while others may need more time.
  2. Previous Experiences: If your child has successfully stayed overnight with relatives or close friends, they might be ready for a sleepover with peers or a short-term camp.
  3. Emotional Readiness: Gauge your child’s emotional readiness by discussing their feelings about staying overnight away from home. If they express excitement and confidence, they may be ready. If they show anxiety or hesitation, it might be best to wait.
  4. Summer Camp Duration: For younger children, start with shorter camp sessions. Many camps offer weekend or week-long sessions specifically designed for first-timers.

Remember, every child is different. Trust your instincts and your knowledge of your child to determine the right time for them.

Practical Tips for Parents

To ensure a smooth experience for both you and your child, consider these practical tips:

  1. Pack Smart: Make a checklist of essential items to pack, such as pajamas, a toothbrush, a change of clothes, and any necessary medications. For camps, include items like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a reusable water bottle.
  2. Set Expectations: Explain your expectations regarding behavior and communication. For instance, if you expect a nightly phone call or text, let your child know in advance.
  3. Respect Boundaries: Respect your child’s boundaries and readiness. If they express reluctance or fear about staying overnight, it’s okay to wait until they feel more comfortable.
  4. Stay Positive: Maintain a positive attitude and reassure your child that it’s normal to feel a bit nervous. Share stories of your own sleepover or camp experiences to help them feel more at ease.

Independent Travel

For older children, particularly those embarking on independent travel, additional considerations are necessary:

  1. Travel Itinerary: Ensure your child has a clear itinerary and understands their travel plans. Provide them with copies of important documents and emergency contact numbers.
  2. Travel Safety: Discuss travel safety tips, such as staying aware of their surroundings, keeping valuables secure, and knowing how to ask for help if needed.
  3. Communication Plan: Establish a regular check-in schedule. Whether it’s through phone calls, texts, or emails, consistent communication helps provide peace of mind.
  4. Preparation: Ensure they are well-prepared for their trip, including having enough funds, understanding local customs, and knowing basic phrases if traveling to a different country.


Nights away from home, whether for sleepovers, family visits, summer camp, or independent travel, can be wonderful opportunities for growth and fun. By prioritizing safety, supporting emotional readiness, and following these practical tips, you can help ensure that your child has a positive and memorable experience. At Farrell Pediatrics, we are here to support you and your family through every stage of development. If you have any concerns or need further guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.