Is it Safe To Have A Sleepover During The Pandemic?

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I don’t know about you, but I might miss my kids having sleepovers more than my kids do. They loved shacking up with one of their friends on a Friday or Saturday night. It not only made them happy and gave them something to look forward to, I didn’t realize how much it broke up the monotony of our household.

If my daughter had a friend over on a Friday night, she and her friend often included her younger brother. And if they didn’t, it gave my kids a break from each other while still being together. It always shifted the dynamic in our four walls.

I have to admit, I love spoiling my kids’ friends with pizza and homemade cookies too. They’ve always appreciated me in a way my own kids don’t. So honestly, I selfishly like the compliments and attention.

I really did enjoy the quiet nights when they were off spending the night with their friends. It gave them opportunities to go on different adventures and get away from their annoying mom for a bit. It gave me the opportunity to walk around naked, blast my ’90s music, not have to tell anyone to shut up.

Growing up, spending the night with a friend was always something I looked forward to a week in advance. What would we do? Where would we go? What would we wear?

It’s a wonderful part of growing up and starts the separation process that happens between parents and their kids.

But with COVID-19 being around for so long, many sleepovers have stopped in order to keep everyone safe. It’s been hard on the kids and on the families.

We find ourselves asking: After seven months of the pandemic, are sleepovers safe for our kids yet? And if they are, what precautions should we be taking?

Scary Mommy went to the experts to see if having your kids spend the night at a friend’s or cousin’s house is something we should be doing right now.

In an email interview, Dr. John Bower, MD, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital, told us the first thing you need to do is determine the type of sleepover. Are we talking about one friend or family member who you are close with and have had lots of communication with the parents on how they’ve been protecting themselves and others about COVID-19?

Or is this an all-night party involving a few (or more than a few) children, and you aren’t sure how everyone has been treating the pandemic?

“Sleepover parties with several or more children present a high risk for COVID transmission and are still not advisable,” Bower says. “This is especially true as schools attempt to reopen. Sleepovers involving a single friend, however, can offer a low-risk option by following some basic precautions.”

So, there’s some good news. The slumber party your daughter wanted for her birthday is obviously too high a risk and shouldn’t be held (tell them they can wait until next year) — instead, they can choose one of their closest friends to stay the night.

You can have peace of mind about this decision if you do the following.

Bower explains the importance of talking to the other child’s parents and finding out how closely they’ve been following the protocols of wearing masks and staying away from big crowds.

Also, remember that it’s not just about the kids or the parents. Are there high-risk family members, such as grandparents, living in the home? What is the incidence of COVID in the community and local schools? Obviously if your area is seeing an uptick in cases, it’s not the prime time to schedule an overnight.

“If these questions raise any concern, plan for another time. Remember, low-risk doesn’t equal no risk,” says Bower.

You also need to cover what will happen during the sleepover with the other family.

Have a conversation about staying away from crowds, and while asking everyone to wear a mask the entire time is impractical and probably not going to happen, wearing masks if you do go out in public should be a must, says Bower.

Make sure you watch for any signs or symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. Symptoms of viral infection can develop suddenly. “And It’s not just COVID, but a host of other viruses commonly infect children, especially in the fall and winter months,”says Bower.

Absolutely no sharing drinks or food, something kids can do without even giving it a second thought. Also, remind everyone in the house to frequently wash their hands.

Although it is a lot of work and takes some of the fun out of a sleepover (for the parents and the kids), something is better than nothing. Bower advises that parents to “provide supervision and structured activity whenever possible, especially for younger children.”

This is definitely a little silver lining for everyone right now. If your kids have been asking (and asking, and asking) if their friend can spend the night, and you and the other family are comfortable and can agree to some safety terms, have at it.

The big slumber parties will happen again, for sure — but for now, it sounds like allowing one friend over for the night is a nice thing we can allow our kids to partake in, as long as we do it right.