By Mo Cooper - Jul 12, 2012
When your kids are young, the convenience and security of the family bed can easily outweigh the negatives. But eventually, the time does come when every child needs his own bed — and when parents need theirs back.
If you're wondering when this day should arrive in your home, or how to make the transition, here are three helpful suggestions — gathered from moms who fall on both sides of the family bed debate.
1. Let Your Child Decide
If there's a magic age at which kids should be in their own beds, moms can't agree on it. But there is consensus on one point: that age can be different for each child. When single mom Marianne D. had questions about whether it's okay for her 6-year-old son to continue sleeping with her, the overwhelming majority of the moms who responded (over 200 in total) felt that six is not too old to sleep with mommy, especially if doing so achieves the main goal of bedtime: good sleep! As a Circle of Moms member named Lisa notes in her response, "what actually matters is that everyone get the most restful sleep possible."
Circle of Moms member Mary S. found that her son was ready to sleep in his own bed all night at around age 9: "We didn't even talk about it, he just stopped and we both knew it was time. :-)" Claudia G. had a similar experience: "I have a 13-year-old who slept with me until he was 10, now he's Mr. Independent, and sweet and normal as can be."
A few moms indicate that sharing a bed with mom should be for the benefit of the child, and not just to make mom feel more secure. A mom named Elfrieda, for instance, suggests that if you have a child who is eager to please, it might be a good idea to make sure you're not guilting him into it: "If he's very keen on pleasing you, he might keep sleeping in your bed long after he wishes he could be on his own." Pamela W. adds that you should not use your child to replace having a partner in bed: "you may want to consider what it may mean for YOUR dependency on his company in bed, and go from there in whatever choice you make."
2. Set Puberty as the Boundary
Things usually start to change as kids near puberty and realize that they want more independence and privacy. In her response on the issue, Becky H. agrees that co-sleeping is "nothing to worry about" with young children, and paraphrases the perspective of her state's social services agency: "when the male child begins to show interest (like mommy is different than me) or [is] beginning to be curious about his own gender (why does my friend not sleep in his mommy's bed?), that is probably a good time to introduce his options about his own bed, for privacy issues."
If your child is showing signs of entering puberty and you feel it's time for her to sleep alone, you might want to "set a date," as Shaunise did for her twins girls: "I think it's your decision as a parent. . . my twins just turned 12 and I had a long talk with them and set a date for them to sleep in their own bed, no matter what."
3. Do What's Best For You and Your Partner
Whether or not to continue co-sleeping with big kids may be less about the age of the kids, and more about whether everyone in the family bed is truly happy with the arrangement. For single moms this can be an easy choice, but if you have (or someday hope to have) a partner or spouse, that changes things.
Circle of Moms member Leea S. feels that single moms should consider the impact it could have on your child if you do begin an intimate relationship down the road: "Do you kick your child out of your bed now that you have a new spouse to share your bed? That can be emotionally detrimental to your child. Not to mention, the resentment your child will likely carry for the person taking their place in your bed."
If you are married or in a relationship, and having kids in the bed every night is causing problems with your partner, it can be a tough choice. Roxanne F. brought the issue of her "disapproving husband" to the Circle of Moms communities and got some great advice. Theola W. takes a strong stance on the issue: "I know you say you like having your kids sleep with you (I like the snuggles with mine too) - but if [having] the kids in your bed is causing a problem between you and your husband, [your kids] are going to pick up on the friction and it will make things worse for them."
If you are stuck in the middle between a disapproving partner and a kid who refuses to sleep without you, Tricia K. suggests adding a sleep place for your child in your room: "My son is two and he has his own bed on the floor of our bedroom. He has to be next to me in order to go to sleep. I lay on the floor until he falls asleep. So, if you put a mattress in your room and don't mind laying with your child until they fall asleep and then getting back in bed...that might work."