Parenting Consultant Offers Advice On Child Rearing

by Glenda Moore, Parenting Consultant

Question:  We have a single 4 1/2- year-old daughter who still sleeps with us.  My husband and I feel it is time for her and us to have separate beds.  How do we make the transition in a way that will not be traumatic for her?

Once the child has become accustomed to sleeping with someone beside her, it is more difficult to sleep alone and the transition does need to be handled with care.  For a family with two children, the children can sleep together in a double bed and still have a warm body beside them.  For an only child like yours, it helps to give the child some notice of an upcoming transition.  For instance, it could be said, “When you are five, you will be old enough to sleep in a big girl bed all your own.”  Then the child and parents can prepare for the change together by shopping for the bed, perhaps creating a canopy around it hung from the ceiling or an actual canopy bed to create a feeling of safety and enclosure.  If there is a calm dog or cat in the family, the pet could share the room.  A new soft doll could be made or a new nightgown for an old beloved doll could be found so that there is a companion for the child.  Then the bedtime ritual needs to be shaped with care.  If the child has gone to sleep with the parents resting beside her that could be continued for a time until new habits are established and then gradually diminished by sitting in a chair beside the bed until the child falls asleep.  The important element in any rite of passage is that a new privilege is gained as something old falls away so that the child does not only feel the loss but also the sense of new capacities within.

Glenda Moore has been a parent educator and teacher for 30+ years.  She is available for individual consultation on parenting issues and for parenting classes in small groups.  For more information, call 314-646-0626.