Patty Rosenblum’s son often spends the night in her bed. He’s not a toddler, though—he’s 11. “He does it when he’s stressed about school or scared after a horror movie,” says the Los Angeles mom. “I don’t mind having him there. In fact, I enjoy it.”
According to Parenting’s MomConnection, a surprising 45 percent of moms let their 8- to 12-year-olds sleep with them from time to time, and 13 percent permit it every night.
“If your tween’s having a bad night and sleeps with you for comfort, or you like snuggling together, that’s fine,” says David Palmiter, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Marywood University in Scranton, PA. It’s only a problem when it becomes one for you—or if he gets to a point where he can’t snooze solo.
Signs you might need to take action: he used to sleep in his room just fine but now suddenly wants to be in your bed; he climbs in with you in the middle of the night; he starts complaining of physical symptoms (like a stomachache) as bedtime approaches.
If your co-sleeping kid does seem unusually stressed at night—or you’ve realized you want more privacy—here’s how to reintroduce him to his room:
Explain to him that people need their own space at night, and that most kids his age do it.
Read a favorite book to him in his room (skip exciting selections, like Harry Potter, or he’ll want you to read on and on!). Or let him listen to low-key music on an MP3 player or portable CD player.
Tell your child you’ll sit with him for 15 minutes every night before bed this week; next week, you’ll stand at the door for 15 minutes. The following week, you’ll be down the hall, and so on. (It’s a trick often used to ease a toddler out of your bed—with tweens, fortunately, it works more quickly.)
Create a calm pre-bed ritual. Doing the same things every night, like reading a book or taking a shower, is soothing in the same way his bed/bath/book routine may have been when he was a younger kid, first getting used to sleeping alone.