Is it normal that my kindergartner suddenly wants to sleep in our bed?

Is it normal that my kindergartner suddenly wants to sleep in our bed?

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Yes. According to Beth Barclay, a private pediatrician and adjunct research associate at the University of Michigan's department of pediatrics, it's quite common for children this age to become late-night bed-crashers.

It's most likely to happen when your child is feeling upset or anxious about something.

"At around 5 years old, this could be anything," says Barclay. "It may seem random to the parent, but it could be very big to the child. Maybe he heard something about someone being killed on the news, or maybe he had a conscious realization that his parents could leave while he's sleeping."

Nightmares are another possibility — if your child wakes up from a scary dream, he may crave the sense of safety that you bring.

Talk to your child and try to find out what's bothering him. But remember that he may not be able to tell you — or he may not know himself.

"Even so, you can still help him through the difficult emotions of fear, anxiety, or sadness. Don't leave him alone with it," says Barclay.

Barclay notes that there's nothing wrong with letting your child sleep with you, if you decide to go that route. "Many families in other cultures sleep together," she says. "If this works for you and your family, then it's perfectly fine."

On the other hand, the family bed isn't for everyone. If you prefer for your child to go back to sleeping in his own bed, there are numerous ways to help him get there. The approach you take depends not only on what works best for you and your child, but also on when your child is avoiding his bed.

If he resists his bed at the beginning of the night, you can try a "slow parental wean," suggests Barclay.

Your child could rest in your bed for 15 minutes before switching to his own, for example. Or he could start out in his own bed, with the understanding that you'll sit with him until he drifts off. Or you could agree to sit with him for a limited amount of time, like 15 or 20 minutes.

If your child comes into your bed in the middle of the night, you can spend some time comforting him in your room and then take him back to his bed, or you can take him back to bed immediately and sit with him for a few minutes there.

A lovey to hug when he wakes up may prevent your child from coming into your bed in the first place. "Kids are very associative with their sleep. Whatever they go to sleep with, they'll look for in the middle of the night," says Barclay.

Barclay suggests that you discuss your plans with your child during the day, when you're both alert. You can explain that it's important that he sleep in his own bed so that everyone can get enough rest, and that you and he need to work together to help him do this. Then talk to him about your specific plan — for example, "I'll cuddle with you for a little while, but then I'll need to take you back to your own bed."

Remember, sleep training can be a challenging process at any age. "Sometimes there are tears," Barclay says. "But emotional expression is not necessarily a bad thing."

It may help to remind yourself that when the process is completed, your improved sleep will allow you to be a more awake, alert, and aware parent.



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