Grandson Won't Sleep in His Own Bed!

Filed under: Behavior: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers

Dear AdviceMama,

My 2-and-a-half-year-old grandson still sleeps in bed with his parents. My daughter and her husband have tried to put him in his own bed, but he still winds up in theirs. We are expecting another grandchild any day now and I think this will pose a problem with the sleeping arrangements. Can you help?

Signed,

Worried Grandma

Dear Worried,

As challenging as it may be for your daughter and son-in-law to have a toddler in their bed while caring for a newborn, this isn't the time to try to enforce a major change in your grandson's sleeping habits. Even if his parents were to convince their child to sleep in his own room, once his new brother or sister arrives, there's a good chance he would revert back to climbing into mommy and daddy's familiar bed in the middle of the night as he adjusts to big changes in his little life. The last thing you want is to fuel sibling rivalry by "kicking him out" of his parents' bed just when the baby arrives, without giving him time to comfortably transition to his own room.

For most of human history, families have slept together, and in many parts of the world, they still do. While I'm not arguing for or against co-sleeping, I will say that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that children do fine when they sleep with new babies in their midst. I'll also say that your daughter's dilemma is extremely common; one of the issues I deal with most frequently in working with young families is the difficulty parents have in getting children out of their beds! It takes persistence, consistency and determination; qualities that are in short supply when parents bring home a newborn!

The people I would be most concerned about are your daughter and her husband. Given the disruption a new baby is going to bring to their nights, I wouldn't add the challenge of repeatedly walking a toddler back to his own bed in their sleep-deprived state, which is what they will have to do to train their son to sleep all night in his room.

Given the fact that your daughter is due any day, I'd suggest you offer your babysitting services so the new mom (and dad) can catch a few good naps and a bit of alone time. If your grandson is willing to spend the night with you now and again, that will be terrific. You may even offer to sleep at your daughter's house when the baby comes, inviting your grandson to have a slumber party with you in the guest room to break the routine of sleeping in Mommy's bed. In a few months, when your grandson has had time to adjust to the baby, his parents can revisit training him to sleep in his own room.

Meanwhile, congratulations on your growing family. Have fun, and enjoy this next chapter in grandparenting!

Yours in parenting support,
AdviceMama

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.