Overcast   32.0F  |  Forecast »
Edit Module

What to Do When Kids Crawl into Parents' Beds

Those midnight wake-ups can be tough on parents, too. Here's what's going on with your school-age child, and what you can do.

You feel a little nudge in the middle of the night and, the next thing you know, your child is climbing into bed with you. What do you do? Should you scoot over and go back to sleep? Take your child back to his own bed? Sit up for a midnight chat?

It's an issue in many homes with school-age children.

Setting goals

"When I work for families that have this issue, I ask them to clarify what their goals and priorities are," says Clawson nanny Tara Lindsay. "A good night's sleep for everyone? A child who stays in his own bed? A child who feels free to come for comfort in the middle of the night?"

Roots of the problem

"A child seeks parents when he wants to escape fears," adds Victor Gardner, a Henry Ford Health System child psychologist. "This often occurs at night." Fears, Gardner adds, are characterized by themes. A child might fear separation, monsters, injury or being accepted by his peers at school.

"Sometimes," he says, "parents may feel anxious that they need to respond to and protect their children. The goal is to help kids learn how to manage their own anxieties and fears."

What to do

Kristen Sowles of Shelby Township says that when her 7-year-old daughter wakes up in the middle of the night, she or her husband takes her back to her bed. "We tuck her in bed and lay with her for a little while," Sowles says. "It's about the comfort of having us near her, especially at night when the house is quiet and a bit scary to a kid."

Lindsay says that one way to help is to verbally remind and reassure children that when they wake up in middle of the night, it's OK to lie there for a little while. "A child often thinks, 'Oh, I'm awake, time to get up!'" says Lindsay. "Or they wake confused and out of sorts, so they seek a parent."

Helping your child out

Gardner has some suggestions for parents whose children want to sleep in bed with them. "First, recognize the fear is real and causing the child distress," he says. "Don't dismiss fear. Instead, figure out what caused the fear."

Next, he recommends "demystifying" their fears and letting them know it's common to be scared. "It's important for parents to point out that sometimes our fears are real, and sometimes they're unrealistic," Gardner says. "Sometimes our bodies send out false alarms. Teach children how to reset that alarm. Give a hug (and) kiss and tell them that they're OK. Sit with them for a little bit."

Strategies and successes

Teaching your child relaxation strategies, he adds, can be quite helpful. If you give your child ideas on how to switch his focus away from his worries, he can work through his fears on his own.

"Don't force your child to stay in his room," says Gardner. "That can cause increased distress. Attend to your child, but also give reassurance that he can work through his fear."

It's important to celebrate success with your child, too. When he sleeps independently and manages his own worries, show him that you're proud.

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Holiday Ham Recipes

Holiday Ham Recipes

Still looking for some ideas for your big holiday dinner? This year, try a new recipe for your Christmas ham – thanks to these ideas from Taste of Home, Pillsbury and more.

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

Hanukkah Crafts for Kids: Holiday Picture Frame

If you're celebrating the holiday and looking for quick and easy crafts for kids, this fun and affordable little keepsake is a great way to display family memories.

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

Dad Gets Unexpected Reaction to Terrible Christmas Gifts

British dad pranks his kids with bad Christmas presents, but didn't get the reaction he was expecting – and it's pretty sweet.

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Simple Holiday Family Crafts to Make with On-Hand Material

Does your family have paper cups, Legos, plastic spoons or toilet-paper rolls lying around? Transform them into angels, snowmen and even a chimney for Santa!

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

Bath Time Safety Tips for Babies and Toddlers

What's the best way to bathe your child? How can you keep them safe in the tub? A pediatric doctor at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit has tips.

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Snowman Dessert Recipes: Tasty and Cute Ideas

Who doesn't love Frosty the Snowman? Kids will enjoy making – and eating! – some of these adorable and delicious snowman recipes.

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Holiday Stamping Favorite Supplies from Stampin' Up

Crafty company Stampin' Up offers a variety of fun stampers, punches and paper that transform into cool gift tags, cards and other fun DIY projects.

Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement