How to Get Kids to Sleep in Their Own Beds

When Cameron Mathison and his wife Vanessa call for their children to go to bed, they might assume the kids will sleep in their own beds in their own rooms.

But when the parents go to check on the kids later, the beds are empty. Instead, the kids are curled up, comfortably snoozing away on their parents' bed.

Experts call it co-sleeping -- when children prefer to sleep in their parents' bed.

The Mathisons even came up with the idea to use one of Cameron's T-shirts as a pillowcase so that it would smell like him in the kids' beds.

"This is one of the ways we try and get him [Cameron's son Lucas] to stay in his bed and sleep there," Cameron said. "It worked for a little while, but not anymore."

The Mathisons are hardly the only parents to face this problem.

"It's incredibly common," Jennifer Waldburger, a family sleep therapist from Sleepy Planet, told "Good Morning America." "So many families struggle with this and it's kind of one of those really well-kept secrets nobody talks about."

According to Waldburger, despite how much kids may want to sleep with their parents, quality of sleep for both the parents and kids can be affected for the worse.

"Kids really need to have that sleep in their bodies to have enough energy to make it through the day and to think smart thoughts and grow properly," Waldburger said.

How to Get Your Kids to Go to (Their Own) Bed

"Good Morning America" asked a few experts, including Walderberger, the best ways to get your kids off to dreamland under their own sheets. Check out some of their advice:

Have a goldfish or small pet in the room to keep them company.

Have a "mommy" or "daddy" teddy bear to snuggle with.

Spend time with them before bed. This is a good time to read to them.

At the start, use special gifts from the "sleep fairy," like the tooth fairy. If they sleep in their own bed, they get a little morning present.

Have a sleep party with mom and dad in the kid's bed for several nights in a row. That way they get the security of the parents' company with the comfort of their own beds.

"The benefits are huge," Walderberger said. "As much as you love your kids now, you're going to love them even more when they're sleeping."

More Tips From Around the Web

When it comes to nightmares, treat their irrational fears like tangible ones, says parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley. "After all, most kids believe that the tooth fairy and Big Bird are real, too," Pantley says on her Web site, Pantley.com.

Be tough. According to Parenting.com, after the decision is made, parents need to quit co-sleeping cold turkey. Take midnight visitors back to bed, even if they fight the journey. If there's crying, tough it out.

Supernanny.com says parents shouldn't forget to praise their children's success when they do sleep alone.

Babycenter.com says it's OK to address the child's fears. If they're afraid of the dark, maybe use a nightlight. Monsters under the bed? Give it a check the first few times. "A spray-bottle filled with extra-strength monster-deterrent (a.k.a. water) can also provide late-night comfort," the Web site says.

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