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Health & Parenting

Get Your Bed Back

Got a child who wanders to your bedroom at night? Reclaim your bed, and say goodbye to restlessness.
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Changing Habits continued...

At the Higdon household, after three nights of a new bedtime routine -- involving nightlights, bedtime stories, music, and talking about the bedroom as a safe place filled with love -- Kaylee and Gracie were falling asleep in their own beds and sleeping in their own room all night. "Gracie told me I was right," Karen says. "There are no monsters in the room, and she loves sleeping there."

Here's how to transition your child to sleep in his own bed all night:

Start Early

It's easier to train a toddler to sleep in his room when he's in a crib, since he won't be able to get out of bed and look for you. "If a child in a bed thinks he can visit you at bedtime," child sleep consultant Dana Obleman, author of The Sleep Sense Program, says, "it can turn into a game, and that's usually when problems occur."

Use Positive Language

Be encouraging and you can make your child eager to make the switch. "Say, 'Guess what? You're three! Three-year-olds get to sleep in their beds all night! Isn't this great?" Mindell says. "It's a positive spin, like 'You get to wear underwear!' instead of 'You shouldn't be wearing diapers.'"

Reconfigure Bedtime

If your child can't fall asleep without your presence, slowly withdraw yourself from the equation, Obleman says. Instead of lying in your bed together, sit on your child's bed until she falls asleep. After a few days, switch to a chair. Then gradually move the chair closer to her doorway and into the hallway.

Take Small Steps

It may not be reasonable to demand that a child who's accustomed to sleeping in your bed suddenly stay in her own room all night. So try making the separation more gradual. McKenna says, "Some parents have told me that they've had their children sleep alongside their bed in a sleeping bag. Or decide that they can have 15 minutes in your bed and then they go back."

Shannon Choe has an air mattress in her room in case her 2-, 4- or 7-year-old visits at night. "They get to be closer to us but not disrupt our sleep. And it's not so comfortable that they'll choose this option long-term," she says.

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