Helping a Child with Separation at a Sleepover

I came back from a Hand in Hand class and had my 5-year-old son’s good friend stay the night, to give her parents a much needed date night.  Her parents are also very good friends, and this was probably the tenth or fifteenth time she’s stayed with me over the years, but the first time in over a year.

Everything was going great, and at bedtime we laid down all together and read stories.  After book time, my son fell right to sleep, but his friend was restless.  Ten minutes into lying down, she started to say, “I want my mommy and daddy” over and over again.  I knew she was going to have some feelings of separation, and after checking in with myself to make sure that it would be something her parents would support me doing, I chose to use StayListening to help her through her feelings of separation and fear.

Each time she said “I want my mommy and daddy,” I responded by acknowledging her and reassuring her.  I would say things like “I know you want them.”  “I’m here, I’ll take care of you.”  “They’ll be here in the morning, they love you so much.”   After some whimpery cries, she really started deep crying.  I took her out of Sam’s room and into my bedroom, where I held her while she discharged big feelings.  She cried big, shook, and tried to reason with me, saying things like “NOTHING will get me to sleep unless I get my mommy and daddy!” and “Will you drive me home right now?” and “Can you call my mommy and daddy?”

I kept holding and reassuring her, comforting her, and paying close and constant loving attention.  At the end of her release, she sat up next to me, yawned, and said “we could read a book if you want…”

We read a few books, and she drifted off to sleep in my arms.  When the morning came, she was bright and happy, and didn’t even ask about her mom and dad until they came at 9:30.  She played cooperatively and had a great rest of her sleepover!

– a mom in Oakland, California

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