Most children are adventurous. It’s fueled by innocence, an inability to see risk. So they take the dive with glee. Often, transitioning a child to their own bed can be as simple as showing it to them. If the bed’s carefully selected to elicit a positive reaction — the right bed sheets and comforters or the appropriate surroundings — most children will look forward to nightfall. Boys can get excited about racing car beds. childrens loft beds will thrill them with the idea of climbing. Girls might appreciate a lovely princess or doll house motif. Not that they wouldn’t look forward to a bed that resembled a racing car any less than a boy…
Of course, everyone’s different. What works with one child may not work with his sibling. Transitioning a child to their own bed could require a little finesse.
A situation where the child doesn’t like sleeping alone isn’t unusual. Tired and overworked parents will let a child sleep with them if it means getting some rest themselves. This isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s when the practice is overused and the long term consequences aren’t given real considerations that there can be problems.
Children appreciate structure. If she’s used to the warmth of a parent nearby and comfortable with the last things she sees before falling off to sleep — like the parent’s face or room — it could be difficult to tell her that has to stop. Age has nothing to do with it. It’s conditioning. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers and even young children that are in school crawl under the parents’ sheets frequently and with little resistant from the parents. Studies have revealed that many children spend at least a part of the night in their parents’ bed.
Create a new structure. Spend as much time as possible talking with the child about your expectations when it comes to sleeping arrangements. Don’t wait until he’s climbing into your bed. As we tend to not like having our rest disturbed that might be the worst time to enforce the law. If anything, he could associate sleeping alone with admonishment.
Develop incentives for good behavior. For sleeping in her room without disturbing Mommy and Daddy offer a little reward. Every three or four successful nights, take her to the zoo or aquarium. Ask what she wants for dinner. Pizza it is! Be careful with this tactic. Set limits well beforehand or you’ll find yourself paying that child to sleep in her own bed after graduation.
There’s also helping the child develop a great attitude about sleeping alone. Give him something to get excited about. A new bed or sheets can be quite encouraging. Include him in the process. Ask what would help him sleep better. Now go on the Internet together. Make him part of the shopping process. Let him open the packages. Have him play a part in putting the new bed together or putting on the new sheets. He might rest better with a nightlight or a little music. Work with him and let him know how proud you are of his progress. You can also create a better transition by decorating with bed accessories.
Give the child time to get comfortable. There may still be a few nights when you find her at your bedroom door. There might even be a legitimate reason. A storm, nightmares, sickness, restlessness or anxiety over the new situation could keep her awake. There might be monsters in the closet. If you honestly can’t get her back in bed wait until the next day to talk about the agreed arrangement. Another, probably better, alternative would be to sleep in her room. Not in the bed, on an air mattress or, if you can stand it, in a chair. At least until she’s fallen back to sleep. Give her something to think about as she nods off, a memory that she’s fond of or a story that makes her happy.
Certain types of beds can help children transition better. Kids bunk beds or even a trundle day bed allows others to sleep in the same room. This is particularly helpful if your child is afraid. These extra bed spaces can also be used when friends are over.
There are many effective ways to get your child to sleep in their own bed. It’s going to require perseverance, patience and time. It will require encouragement and grace on the parents’ part. But then, that’s the job.