It’s a familiar scenario: Your child has gleefully announced she’s ready to sleep in her own bed. But once darkness falls and the nightlight is switched on, she stalls bedtime, has a mini-meltdown, or bolts into your bed just as you were trying to clear the day from your mind with a good book.
There’s no right way to establish a bedtime routine for toddlers or young kids whether you and your family choose to co-sleep or set your little one up in their own bed. The decision will largely depend on your unique family dynamic and needs.
When you keep attempting to usher your little one from the main parent’s bed into their own bed, you may encounter difficulties maintaining a consistent bedtime routine. It’s common to try using a bedtime story or a night light, but one of the better ways to help your child is by exploring why they’re having trouble transitioning to sleeping alone can help to create a safe place for your youngster.
Why Should Kids Learn To Sleep In Their Own Beds?
As we touched on above, there are no “rules” on if or when a young child should sleep in their own bed. Indeed, sharing a bed is a common practice in cultures around the world and can often provide your child with a sense of security and connection.
Similarly, there shouldn’t be any guilt attached to transitioning your child to their own bed. You and your little one both need a good night’s sleep. And providing your child with their own sleep space can help them work through sleep issues and foster confidence and coping skills.
All that said, getting kids to sleep on their own can also provide little ones with:1
- Fewer middle-of-the-night wake-up calls and sleep disturbances
- Healthy sleep habits and patterns
- Independence and resilience
Getting your child excited about sleeping in their own bed—and staying there—can sometimes be a different matter. Fortunately, there are ways to do so with love, compassion, and confidence.
#1 Look for the Reason Behind Your Child’s Struggle to Sleep in Their Own Bed
By the time bedtime rolls around, it isn’t that your child isn’t tired, even if they try every trick in the book to convince you otherwise. Sometimes, anxiety can brew under the surface of your child’s behavior, making it more challenging for them to feel safe about approaching an independent sleep routine.2
Behavior is communication. If your child is throwing a tantrum at bedtime or running from their room the moment you shut the door, ask, what are they really trying to say–and what are they attempting to tell you?
Understanding the meaning behind your child’s behaviors and practicing different calming strategies for kids can help unlock a sleep time solution that works for the whole family.
You may also want to consider if there have been any changes in your family dynamics, environment, or daily structure. This could include
- Tension with a partner
- A recent divorce or separation
- A new baby in the family, or another one on the way
- A grandparent or other friend or relative who has moved in
- Moving to a new home or school
Your child may be small but their feelings can be big. If you suspect—or know—something may be bothering your child, you can connect with them using positive language to understand how they’re feeling.
Oftentimes, recognizing and acknowledging the cause of the problem can help naturally lead you to a solution.
Lastly, consider your child’s age. An older child may have a larger imagination—meaning they’ll be more aware of the world, and all the potentially scary things that come with it.
Feeling fearful at night or scared to say goodbye is often a normal reaction to this transition that can often lead your child to crawl into bed with you in the middle of the night or resist their bed altogether.
To foster a sense of security prior to you leaving the room, you can cultivate a consistent bedtime routine, spend some time reading with your child before bed, or snuggle them extra long before you kiss them goodnight. A nightlight or calming music can also create a comfortable environment for your little one to wind down and feel safe.
#2 Open Up the Channels of Communication
Creating an open line of communication with your child is one way to help your kid feel safe enough to fall and stay asleep in their own bed. You might want to try these tactics:
#3 Help Your Little One Problem-Solve
Transitioning to sleep in one’s own bed is a huge milestone.
You may want to nurture this growing independence by helping your child come up with a resolution to the difficulties they’re having with it. This doesn’t mean indulging their request for a cookie at bedtime, no matter how much they might like it.
Instead, you can encourage them to discover concrete, available solutions. For example, you can ask your little one the following questions:
- Would they like their nightlight on or off?
- If they sleep in a separate room, would it help if the door was closed, open all the way, or partially shut?
Teaching your child to listen to their own needs can help cultivate feelings of confidence and trust within themselves and their decisions and develop resilience.4
#4 Encourage Your Child’s Capacity to Self-Soothe
An exciting or challenging day can leave children “tired but wired” by bedtime. Learning to acknowledge and recover from big emotions, such as excitement, anxiety, fear, and sadness, can help little ones self-regulate and feel confident in new experiences.
To encourage calming techniques, you can bolster your child’s bedtime with a heart-to-heart conversation or books that help your little one comfort themself like Sloth Starts to Slumber. The boardbook offers children progressive muscle relaxation techniques to settle their minds and bodies and guides them into a quieter, cozier mental and physical space.
#5 Offer Reassurance
“Don’t go!” is often heard by caregivers after they’ve tucked their child into bed. For some children, there’s a finality to sleep that can be awfully scary. Also scary? Being separated from those who care for them the most.
Fortunately, reassurance can go a long way to ease your child’s bedtime anxiety:
- Weave connection-building books into your bedtime routine – Otter’s Heart Family helps children see that even though they may be “apart” from their loved one—yes, even if you’re sleeping in the same room or are right down the hall—they are still safe, secure, and deeply loved.
- Let cuddles continue throughout the night – If your child is new to sleeping in their own bed, it’s completely natural for them to miss the physical connection and comfort of having someone by their side. The Otter Snuggler may be the perfect solution for helping them deal with this change, especially since it comes with a removable heart they can give you or another family member at bedtime. It’s a visual and tactile reminder of the special bond you share, and maybe just what they need to feel secure enough to stay in their own bed.
#6 Say Goodnight with Confidence
Children are incredibly attuned to their caregiver’s emotions. You might have some anxiety or even nostalgia about your child sleeping in their own bed. This, too, is totally natural, but if you are insecure about sleeping separately, they may very well pick up on it.5
You might want to try separating from them with firmness and confidence: “It’s time to rest. Goodnight, I love you, and I will see you in the morning.”
#7 Try the “Two Things Are True” Approach
Dr. Becky Kennedy is a huge advocate of the “two things are true” approach.6 This practice acknowledges and validates your children’s feelings but also gently reinforces necessary boundaries. At bedtime, it could look like this:
- “Two things are true: I know you don’t want to go to sleep, but it’s time to rest. I love you, and will see you in the morning.”
- “I know you’d like another story, but it’s also bedtime now and we need to turn off the light. Why don’t you think about which story we’ll read tomorrow?”
#8 Keep Trying
Getting your child to sleep in their own bed can involve one step forward and three steps back. Just remember that it’s all part of the process. If your child crawls into your bed or keeps calling for you after you’ve tucked them in, try saying, “Okay, let’s try this again.”
Over time, they’ll discover that consistency, effort, and discipline pave the way for success.
#9 Practice Consistency
A bedtime routine is one of the most vital components of a rejuvenating night’s sleep and may help your child feel better prepared for sleeping in their own bed. Indeed, studies show a bedtime routine can:7
- Enhance language development
- Offer early learning opportunities
- Enrich feelings of security
Children benefit enormously from structure and routine. Whatever your family’s nighttime regime may be, aim to use it consistently—including the time your child goes to sleep at night and when they rise in the morning.
Cultivate Sweeter Dreams with Slumberkins
Creating a safe place for your child to sleep soundly and alone can be difficult. Fortunately, taking the time to understand your child’s bedtime behaviors and encouraging confidence in themselves can lead to restful sleep for the whole family.
Slumberkins knows that a child sleeping in their own bed is a big, important step. Our array of products supports this transition so that children, like Sloth, can have dreams full of wonder—and gain confidence, independence, and resilience along the way.
- "Should I be co-sleeping with my child?" Children’s Health. https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/should-i-be-co-sleeping-with-my-child
- "Children and anxiety." Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/anxiety/children-and-anxiety
- "Active listening." CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/communication/activelistening.html
- Lonczak, Heather. "How to build resilience in children." Positive Psychology. 19 February, 2019. https://positivepsychology.com/resilience-in-children/
- "Calming a child who won’t separate." Janet Landsbury. https://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/04/calming-a-child-who-wont-separate/
- Leeds, Sarene. "Dr. Becky Kennedy’s tips for dealing with kids’ feelings." Insider. 20 September, 2022. https://www.insider.com/dr-becky-kennedys-tips-for-dealing-with-kids-feelings-2022-9
- Mindell, Jodi A, and Ariel A Williamson. “Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond.” Sleep medicine reviews vol. 40 (2018): 93-108. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2017.10.007
- Raypole, Crystal. "Let it out: dealing with repressed emotions." Healthline. 31 March, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/repressed-emotions#other-signs