Getting kids to sleep.

After months of bad dreams in her big-girl bed, Della Jones of Bexley told her parents she wanted to move back into their room.

Now, the 4-year-old falls asleep in her parents' king-sized bed and stays there all night. She wakes well rested and doesn't have any more nightmares, said her mother, Karen.

Jones and her husband, Michael, are OK with the arrangement because it doesn't disrupt their sleep.

And that's the key to determining whether your child's sleeping habits are working, according to parenting experts. It's OK for kids to bunk with their parents as long as everyone wakes rested in the morning, said Dr.
Kate J. Krueck, a pediatrician with Pediatric Associates in Lewis Center.

"If this is not a problem for you then we don't ever need to talk about it," she said.

Parents generally ask for help when co-sleeping disrupts their rest. If that's the case, Krueck recommends kicking the children out. Start by telling the kids during the day when they are awake and in a good mood that tonight they will be expected to stay in their own bed.

Krueck said it's also important to come up with a set of consequences that will occur if they leave their bed. It usually takes less than a week to modify the nighttime behavior, Krueck said.

Sometimes, though, it's not a matter of imposing consequences but simply getting to the root of the problem. If a child who has been sleeping on his own starts coming into your room in the middle of the night, try to find out what is causing the change.

Around age 3 or 4, a child might start to develop fears of the dark or monsters, said Dr. Yvonne Gustafson of the Elizabeth Blackwell Center.

"There are things we can do to help children know they are safe and secure," she said.

Having a blanket to snuggle has helped 5-year-old Jack Grieshop develop good sleeping habits, said his mother, Sandra. She and her husband, Dan, also set firm rules about bedtime in their Bexley home.

"Once you're in bed, the only reason to get up is to go potty. Then you go right back to bed," she said.

Sharing a set of bunk beds with his 7-year-old sister, Ally, also helps Jack stay in his room at night. He finds her presence a comfort, Sandra Grieshop said.

If a storm or bad dream wakes the kids, they can crawl into bed with mom and dad for a few minutes. The children don't grumble about returning to their beds because that's the way it has always been, their mother said. "They know everyone sleeps in their own bed."