How to Prepare Your Kids — and Yourself — for a Sleepover, According to an Expert (Exclusive)

Deciding when it's time to let your kids have a sleepover can be a tricky task

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a sleepover


Stock image of a sleepover

Sleepovers are a quintessential part of childhood — there's nothing quite like the thrill of staying up late, munching on snacks and reading teen magazines.

However, after a man in Oregon was accused recently of drugging three of his 12-year-old daughter's friends with benzodiazepine-laced mango smoothies at a sleepover in August, the coming-of-age experience has given way to something darker. He has since pleaded not guilty and posted a $50,000 bail, according to The Oregonian.

The scary event in Lake Oswego, a suburb of Portland, came to light after one of the tweens contacted her parents — and then multiple friends' parents — to pick her up from the sleepover because she felt like something was off.

When the girl's mother did not initially respond, she began calling and texting other friends to have them ask their parents to pick her up. She finally got help after one answered and sent her mother to pick her up from the sleepover.

While children are often warned of stranger danger and to be aware of their surroundings, it's important to discuss with your kids what to do in an event like this and employ them with tools they can use to feel safe at a friend's house.

Not sure where to begin? PEOPLE spoke with an expert on how to start the necessary conversation.

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<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a sleepover


Stock image of a sleepover

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Establish a Level of Comfort

"My most universal piece of advice would be to make sure you feel comfortable before sending your child over for a sleepover," Dr. Rebekah Diamond, a pediatrician at Columbia University Irving Medical Center tells PEOPLE. "This usually means getting to know the parents a bit and asking a few basic questions."

Before letting your child sleep over at a friend's house, it's important to make sure you're comfortable with sending them over for the night. If there's a friend your child wants to have a sleepover with, set up a time to get coffee with the parents or meet up with them at after-school pickup.

Determine Who Will Be in the House

While Dr. Diamond notes there are many questions one should ask before letting your child sleep at a friend's, she says it's critical to "understand who will be in the house" and "what supervision will be like."

When talking with the parents, consider asking if the kids will be supervised the whole time, or if the sleepover will happen on a separate floor (for example the basement or attic). Will both parents be home, or will only one? If it's a single-parent household, will the parent be home the entire time? If the sleepover is happening on a separate floor, is there a way for the kids to exit the house without the parents noticing?

<p>Getty</p> Stock photo of a sleepover


Stock photo of a sleepover

Are There Weapons in the Household?

It's important to establish if there are any weapons in the household where the kids will be. Asking questions about "firearms in the home and how they are stored," Dr. Diamond says, is paramount as parents begin to think about letting their children stay over.

Are the weapons in a spot where kids can reach them? With the rise of play guns in the toy aisle, it's easy for children to mistake a toy gun for a real one. If the parent has firearms in their house, it's important to determine if they're kept out of reach from little hands.

Make Sure Your Child Has a Way to Contact You

"It's important to feel comfortable that your kid understands when and how to contact you if they want or need to," Dr. Diamond says, "and that you as a parent feel confident that it's something your kid will be able and willing to do."

When your child is staying over at a friend's house, your child must know how to get in contact with you if something goes wrong. If your child doesn't have their own phone, having them memorize your phone number or sending them over with a prewritten list of emergency contacts can be a great option.

Consider a "Sleep-Under"

"Sleep-unders are something that a lot of families have where there's a concrete pickup time and kids can watch movies and eat popcorn," says licensed clinical social worker Kelley Kitley, who appeared on NBC News Daily to discuss the topic.

This type of faux sleepover party is a great compromise with kids because it lets little ones have all the fun of an actual overnight without the worry of the unknown at someone else's house.

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Read the original article on People.