Single Parents And Sleepovers

Single parents share their secrets for making your first overnight date easy on the kids—and you. Listen to this advice.

By Chelsea Kaplan

f you’re a single parent, chances are, your evenings are usually reserved for homework help and bedtime stories. If you’re a single parent who’s dating, planning an adults-only sleepover for you and your sweetie can be difficult enough to schedule, not to mention the challenges of introducing your kids to your plans. Though you may anticipate the first night your honey sleeps over will be red-hot, if you have kids at home, the flames of passion can be extinguished in no time. Just as soon as your little ones (or one) get the feeling that something is changing — and they’re not sure they like it — your romantic evening can become anything but.

To make your first adult sleepover as easy as possible for everyone, check out
Keep bedtime routines consistent, even when your new partner stays over.
these tips from Moms and Dads who have managed to stage successful sleepovers. Hopefully their experiences will guarantee you an evening free of tears and tantrums.

Stick with the routine
The case history: “Whenever I had a boyfriend spend the night at my house after my husband and I got divorced, I made sure my daughter’s bedtime routine — a bath, brushing teeth, a story, then right to bed — was exactly same as it always was. I did this so that she didn’t get the impression that now that my boyfriend would be staying over, everything was going to change.”
— Abby Brenner, 44, Youngstown, OH

The lesson learned: Keeping bedtime routines consistent makes your child feel more secure.

Comfort is key
The case history: “Before my girlfriend slept over, I made sure that my kids felt completely comfortable having her around, so that her overnight presence in my house wouldn’t seem so out-of-the-ordinary that it would upset them. She, my kids and I all hung out together for at least six months before she slept over, doing fun things like going to the park, going to the movies, going out to dinner and taking trips to the zoo. She also spent a lot of time in my home up to that point, so they were used to her being a regular fixture during dinner and at night when we watched TV or played games. By the time she spent the night, they never even batted an eyelash.”
— Tom Janney, 53, Edison, NJ

The lesson learned: Allowing your kids to develop a good, solid relationship with your sweetie first will make it easier when he or she stays over.

Adults only
The case history: “My kids are teenagers, so they know what ‘grown-up’ sleepovers usually entail. Unfortunately, when I have someone spend the night, they often complain — sometimes
Never, ever sneak a date into the house after your child’s asleep!
in front of my male guest — that it’s unfair that they can’t do the same thing with their boyfriends or girlfriends. Whenever they go down this road with me, I explain to them that when they are adults, they can make decisions as to how they choose to conduct themselves in their homes, but right now, they are children and we’re not equals in terms of what we can all do, not to mention what we can tell each other to do. I always explain that if they continue any such complaining in front of my overnight guest, they won’t be doing anything — sleepovers or otherwise — with their significant others for a long time. This usually quiets them right up and makes for an issues-free evening.”
— Beverly Tarnoff, 49, Roswell, GA

The lesson learned: Always remember that you’re the adult, and they’re the kids—and what you say goes!

Be a straight-shooter
The case history: “I once snuck a girlfriend in after my kids went to bed and tried to get her out the door before they woke up. Unfortunately, my daughter got up early and saw her, which made her really upset. I really learned a lesson about lying to my kids from that one. Now, I always shoot as straight as possible with my kids before I have someone spend the night. I say something like, ‘Do you remember so and so? She is staying over tonight, so you may see her in the morning when we have breakfast together.’ If I am upfront from the beginning as to what they can expect, I feel like they don’t make a big deal out of it.”
— Chris B. Kirsch, 45, Manhasset, NY

The lesson learned: When planning a sleepover, being honest with your kids is always the best policy—no sneaking around.

Slumber Party!
The case history: “The very first time I spent the night with my now-wife Susan and her three kids, we all had a great big slumber party together so as to make the idea of my sleeping over at her house a relaxed and fun — as opposed to scandalous — event. We rented movies, made popcorn, and all fell asleep together in sleeping bags on the floor of her den. It was a lot of fun, and I think it did a good job of her kids thinking that my staying over was sort of a “fun for everyone” kind of thing, and not something that made the kids feel excluded.”
— Ben Trefernan, 48, Columbia, MD

The lesson learned: Making the first sleepover a family event can ease your kids into the idea of your honey bunking at your house.

Writer and editor Chelsea Kaplan’s work has appeared in The Family Groove and The Mommy Times. She often appears on syndicated radio programs to discuss relationships and dating issues.
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