Transitional objects can be really helpful in getting kids to sleep in their own beds:

MY SON HAS ALWAYS SLEPT IN HIS CRIB IN HIS OWN ROOM. ABOUT TWO MONTHS AGO HE REFUSED TO SLEEP IN HIS ROOM OR IN HIS CRIB. HELP!

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DR. RUTHERFORD: Sometimes children will go through periods when they’re scared, especially in the dark when they’re alone by themselves.  In fact, I think it’s a fairly normal stage.

MOLLY: This was submitted from a Mom in Kansas. She elaborated that, her 2 year-old son needs to feel someone near him. "We have converted his crib into a toddler bed, but he still won't sleep in his bed. He has to sleep with us. This even happens during the day also. He used to sleep fine in his crib for his naps, but now he has to fall asleep on the couch or floor as long as someone is there. I don't know what to do anymore. So at this point all three of us (my husband, son and I) sleep in our bed. This just isn't working for any of us."

DR. RUTHERFORD: It sounds like, for whatever reason, he is needing reassurance that he's not alone. One technique she could try is to substitute the real thing (meaning the parents) for a stuffed animal or two.

What she could say to the child is, “See this elephant? I’m going to put this elephant at the corner at the bottom of your bed and this elephant is going to watch over you all night and keep you safe while you’re sleeping in bed."

I would give him a stuffed animal to hold while he’s sleeping –actually place it in his arms– and then I would put a larger one at the the bottom of the bed to be the night guard.

MOLLY: I was thinking that another thing she could do is pick out a night light together that he could leave on in his room. Or, what about if they checked for monsters together before a nap or before bedtime by opening all the closets together, checking under the bed, and taking a flashlight to the corners?

DR. RUTHERFORD: I would think she would want to ask him if he’s scared of something before doing that, because he may ....

Read the rest of Dr. Rutherford's advice at Conversations With My Mother.com

Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford publish Conversations With My Mother.com, an online resource for offering practical parenting tips and psychological insight into raising kids. Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist with a busy family practice for more than 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University, and the University of Denver. 

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