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Ask the Experts: Will This Game of Musical Beds Ever End?

Set boundaries about bedrooms and help kids toward sleeping in their own beds all night long

Published on: April 27, 2015

sleepless boyQ: Since we moved to a bigger house, our boys (ages 2 and a half and 4) come to our room several times nightly. They are downstairs from us at the other end of the house. We have a new baby, and it is difficult listening to them crying and screaming. Often I let them sleep in our bed or on our floor, which is a terrible habit. Help! 

A: Sleeping somewhere new and other changes related to moving can really affect sleep. A new baby is another new huge thing for your children. They are processing all of this, which includes waking more at night. All humans wake two to six times every night!

I am a fan of making up a bed on your bedroom floor. This isn’t a terrible habit. This is letting them know if they need extra support, you are there for them. The bed doesn’t need to be comfortable: a blanket and pillow on the floor. They may realize their own beds are much more comfortable.

You always want them to start the night in their own. Make sure there’s a safe, lit path to your room. Set up boundaries for sleeping on your floor. Talk to them from your bed. If they don’t follow the rules, take them back to their beds.

When life has become calmer for everybody, begin making changes. Start with a clear request: “Now I’d like you to spend all night in your bed.”

Try using a clock with a set time that they can come to your room. Take them back to their rooms if they come earlier. Add in more conditions or devices, and one will work for each of your kiddos. Is it that you need to give some sort of incentive, such as sticker charts or choosing the day’s park after a successful night?

Going back to sleep independently after waking only works if they are falling asleep independently at the night’s beginning. Work on becoming less involved at this time. I like to have my clients who sit with their children as they fall asleep find simple reasons to leave the room during this time. Try saying, “Oh, I have to go to the restroom! I’ll be right back.” Every night, increase the time you are out of the room, always coming back in. Eventually, they will fall asleep on their own, and you are not breaking any trust. Of course, this may not be where you are right now, with a new home and a new baby. A lot of this is about accepting that this is happening now and managing how to make it easier for everybody.

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