Sleep-over Anxieties


Dear Dr. Bill,

My daughter is ten-years-old, and she doesn’t want to spend the night away from home unless she has Mommy along.  This presents a problem when friends want her to spend the night or come to a birthday sleep-over.  Is her reaction healthy?  My daughter is shy, and I think she needs to develop her own identity apart from me.  What should I do?



Dear Lauren,

At ten years old, your daughter is just a few years away from entering adolescence.  While it’s wonderful that she has a close relationship with you, you should be encouraging her to be more independent.

Her shyness will make this particularly challenging, but if you don’t start now, she will be “socially handicapped” by her fear of doing anything on her own.

A sleep-over in a safe, supervised environment where you know and trust the parents of the other children is a good place to start.

Talk to her about her fears of being without you for one night, and help her to see that she has nothing to be afraid of.  Encourage her to try it, and let her know that she can call you from her friend’s house if she becomes anxious.

If she agrees to go but then becomes fearful without you, reassure her on the phone but resist the temptation to go pick her up.  If you do, you will be reinforcing her dependency, and setting a bad precedent for the future.

All that being said, every parent should be mindful of what their kids could be exposed to when they are in someone else’s care.  You should learn exactly what is planned for the overnight event.  If you know the other parents well and trust their judgment, you should have little to worry about.

Thanks for writing, Lauren.


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