Our five year old has regressed
to sleeping in the “family bed” since the birth
of our new baby. How can we get him back into his own bed
without him feeling left out or jealous?
One of the great thing about 5 year olds is that you can
actually sit down with them and work things out together.
Logic develops between 4 to 8 years, and five year olds are
so wonderfully inquisitive and trying to see the inter-relationships
between all things that they are ripe to see this issue from
the perspective of the “Big Picture”. This does
not mean though that you can sit down one time, have a little
chat and be done. Instead try this:
- Recognize that it is just a phase. Your five year old
is revisiting the place that offers him love and security.
So although this is a problem for you, for him it is exactly
what he knows to do to get his love and security needs met.
Since he is only five he still might be under the mistaken
belief that since this is how you and the baby are bonding,
he too needs to “act like a baby” to have special
time with you. Use the three steps in the process of learning:
- Arouse his interest: Name the activity. “I notice
that you are sleeping in our bed.” Decide what you
will do, NOT what you will try to make him do: Back off
the issue for the time being and use the indirect approach.
“I’m going to go to the library and get some
books on this subject, the librarians are so helpful! Do
you want to come?” Even if he doesn’t, go yourself
and get the books. Read them to your spouse as all of you
are settling into bed if he is not interested. Do this several
nights. Avoid the temptation to use the book as a spring
board to launch into a diatribe on your agenda to get him
out of the bed. Instead say “Hmmm.” and leave
it at that for the time being.
- Offer opportunities to actively process the experience.
“Sometimes I feel so much energy in my body that I
need to (run, dig, ride bikes, scribble). Remember to focus
on yourself and your responses to how many changes a new
baby brings, not on his. Talk about how things have changed
for you with friends and family in his presence. “I
love the baby so much! I can’t imagine him not being
here. And sometimes I miss the way things used to be. Just
the other day I felt so sad about it that I cried!”
Give yourself permission to grieve what was and thereby
give and model that permission for your five year old.
- Help him become aware of the knowledge he has gained.
Have direct conversations about all the things that have
changed for you and ask for his input. Use humor so that
you are able to laugh at the things you are doing to take
take of yourself around the new baby. Use that same humor
to help him laugh at the things he is doing.
- Find solutions together. Have a family meeting. Use a
talking stick, talk only when you have the stick! Be sure
to start the meeting with everyone sharing their gratefuls
or complimenting other family members. Present YOUR issue:
“I need help. My issue is that ____is back in the
family bed. While I love you very much, I want to find other
ways for us to share close time together because I need
more personal space and privacy in my bed. ” Don’t
expect your son to jump up and say “Great! I’ve
been thinking the very same thing!” He might say he
doesn’t know what to do. Offer scheduled times for
just him and each parent to be together. Once the schedule
is set KEEP IT! Decide on a date that he will “move
out”. Enjoy every moment until then and using his
developmental tendency to be a magical thinker, make up
a “Magic ritual” to help him “graduate”
to his bed.