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How can I get my eight year old to sleep in her own bed?

I am a single mom of an 8 year old. When she was a baby, I got into the habit of letting her sleep with me. I recently bought her a bunk bed to help her transition into sleeping in her own bed in her own room, but she's having none of it. What do I do to help her sleep in her own bed in her own room?

Virginia Ripley | Family Medicine

Virginia Ripley

Co-sleeping is a situation many parents find themselves in. Sometimes it happens rarely and for some it happens every night. Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes it's not. And sometimes it is just a necessity based on living arrangements.

Many doctors say that co-sleeping is only a problem when the parents no longer want it to be happening, but the child has other ideas. Such seems to be the case in the situation presented here. What started out of habit has now turned into 8 years of co-sleeping, and the mom is ready to transition the child into her own bed.

The approach to transitioning out of co-sleeping will differ depending on the age of the child involved. For example, transitioning a 2 year old who has been co-sleeping versus transitioning an older child such as the one in question here may involve different approaches based on their developmental ages.

Since this question is about an 8 year old, we will focus on possible solutions with this age group. First of all, the mom has purchased bunk beds for the girl's room. This is one helpful strategy. This involves making it exciting for the girl to think about moving into her own bedroom, and using her new bunk beds.

Next, with this age group, it is reasonable to use some degree of intelligent discussion with the child about the fact that, while this habit developed over many years, it is now time to break this habit, much like other habits need to be broken in time. She is getting old enough that she may want to go to sleepovers at other kids' houses, or have friends spend the night at her house, and this certainly can't happen if she is sleeping in bed with her mom.

Along those same lines, it is reasonable in this age group to offer a reward system. It doesn't have to be something big, or expensive. It could even be something free - the mom and the child just have to be creative. Some reward that would be exciting to the child, and could be given once she has successfully made the transition into her own bed. 

The final suggestion is patience on the part of the mom. This situation has been going on for 8 years. It is not going to come to a sudden end. Co-sleeping is all this child knows. Yes, the transition will happen. The mom just needs to formulate her plan, show the child that this change is going to take place and stick with it.

As with many situations, children will test their parents (Does my Mom really mean it when she says, that I'm going to be sleeping in my own bed from now on???). With both your words and your actions, show her that yes, you do mean it. This transition is going to happen, but it doesn't have to be negative or hurtful to her. It is just time for the change to occur.

Read more answers by Dr. Ripley