The “family bed” usually helps children sleep well, but their sleep often comes at the expense of sleep for mom and dad. At some point, children have to learn how to sleep on their own in their bed. Like most big changes for kids, getting them to sleep in their own bed requires plenty of communication, patience and determination.
Following these five tips will help you and your family make it through the night.
Establish a plan and communicate it. Three in the morning is not the time to announce that your son or daughter is no longer allowed in your bed. They will be more receptive to the idea during the day when they aren’t focused on their fear or discomfort. Give them plenty of time to absorb the idea that they are no longer allowed to sleep in mom and dad’s bed so you have less resistance at bedtime.
Make sure the time is right. What may seem trivial to you can be a huge deal for young child. Transitioning into their own bed may cause fear or anxiety in your son or daughter. Don’t add this on to other big changes in the child’s life. If you are potty training, moving into a new home, expecting another child or starting your child in daycare, it may be best to wait before you move them out of your bed.
Acknowledge their fear. Again, sleeping one’s own bed may seem like a simple concept, but it can cause a great deal of stress for a child. This is especially true if the child has never slept in their own bed. Acknowledge their fear by telling them you understand their feelings. Then calmly explain to them that they are too big to continue sleeping in mom and dad’s bed. This may take some repetition and extraordinary patience on your part, but it is better to empathize than to agitate.
Offer encouragement. In the morning, be sure to point out the good things your child did in their attempt to sleep in their own bed. Did they stay in their bed longer than usual? Did they actually sleep through the night? Celebrate every step of progress as rewards often carry more weight with children than punishment.
Hit the reset button. If your child is deeply resistant to the idea, you may need to spend a couple of nights sleeping in their room with them. This doesn’t mean sleeping in their bed, as that just transfers the same behavior to another location. Rather, sleep on their floor while they sleep alone in their bed. This may not be the most comfortable solution, but sometimes it’s the only solution.
Above all else, remember that communication is key. Make sure your child understands why you are asking them to make this change and that it’s a normal part of growing up. Your son or daughter must understand that this is a permanent change in the bedtime routine and not a temporary attempt. If you follow through with patience and empathy, your child will be sleeping in their own bed in no time.