Transitioning from the crib to a larger bed can be a challenge for kids, especially if they’re used to sleeping in the same room as parents. It may seem impossible at first, but with a little patience and a few simple guidelines you’ll make the transition much smoother for the whole family. Here are some tips that have helped parents.
A Sleep-Friendly Environment
Part of getting your child to stay in his/her own bed is creating a sleeping environment where they can settle down without being distracted, disturbed or stimulated once the lights are out. They should also feel safe and secure, if they are scared they may want to jump into bed with you for protection. Bunk beds can be a good way to encourage kids to stay in bed as they enjoy the novelty and for kids with a fear of the dark they can often feel safer when elevated off the ground, sleeping in the top bunk. Have the curtains drawn to keep anything frightening, distracting or noisy at bay. Sometimes some soothing music or the white noise of a fan will help drown out noises. Make sure your child has everything he/she needs for the whole night, like extra blankets and a glass of water, so that there’s no need to come to you in the night.
A Favourite Toy
Entice your child to stay in bed by providing a favourite toy or comforter to encourage a feeling of security and comfort. Make this a special bedtime-only toy that stays in the bedroom, so he/she is encouraged to relate bedtime with this favourite toy and the soothing effect it has.
Some children get out of bed at night to find their parents because they are frightened by a fear of the dark. All the unfamiliar sounds and shadowy shapes can be scary when misinterpreted by the active imagination of a child. To alleviate this fear you can try installing a night light in your child’s room. If there’s a particular part of the room that your child voices concern over, like the cupboard or a doorway, place the nightlight somewhere that illuminates the area. A nightlight will also make it easier for your child to get up in the night and go to the bathroom, get a drink of water or find an extra blanket without having to call out for you or come into your room.
The Silent Return
If your child does get out of bed during the night or soon after lights out, simply take him/her back to bed calmly and quietly without engaging your child by speaking. This means that your child isn’t receiving any positive reinforcement by leaving the bed and coming to you. If your child needs a drink of water or to go to the toilet attend to their need saying as little as possible so as not to stimulate your child and then calmly guide them back into bed. When you tuck your child into bed for the night, let him/her know that he/she must stay in his/her own bed to sleep. Let your child know that if he/she gets out of bed you will take him/her back to bed without saying anything, that way your child will know what’s going on when you practice this method. It’s not about giving the silent treatment; it’s simply a method of returning your child to bed without creating any stimulation for your child or encouraging him/her to come to you.
A Rewards System
You can try creating a simple rewards system for nights your child stays in bed all the way through the night. This can be something like a sticker on a chart, or a trip to the movies after a certain string of consecutive nights without crawling into bed with you. With perseverance and patience, these steps should help to have your child sleeping soundly through the night in their own bed, leaving you to do the same.