20 answers

My Son Sleeps with His Dad on the Weekends.

Hi there, I have a slight dilema. I am divorced, and I recently found out that my 8 year old son is sleeping with his dad on the weekends when he goes to his house. My ex lives with his parents, and I also found out that when his dad has to be out of town on the weekends, my son sleeps with his grandparents. I don't know how to feel about this. I feel that they are not allowing my son to grow up, they still baby him all the time. He is their only son/grandson, so I can see him getting extra attention, but at home we try so hard to treat him like a "big boy." Am I over-reacting, or should I do something about this, and what?

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So What Happened?™

I appreciate all of your comments. I have not yet decided what to do about this situation, but I would like you to know that it does create a problem at home. He has a really hard time getting to sleep when he is home, and usually gets up in the middle of the night scared. His bedtime is 9pm, but it usually takes him an hour or more to fall asleep. I feel that by him sleeping with his dad and grandparents, this will and is creating insecurities for him.

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I think it is important to just keep treating him like a young man and that is what will be appreciated in time. I wouldn't make a big deal of it, for his sake. Eventually, he may tell his dad and grandparents he is to big to do this.

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You ask whether you are over-reacting. But in return, I would ask you to define exactly what you are reacting to because I am not sure you yourself know. Of course you are not over-reacting. If you think about it, there is no such thing as OVER-reacting, but co-sleeping itself is not the issue.

Co-sleeping is not a big deal, at least on the surface of it. Children co-sleep with their parents in a lot of other cultures and the children eventually grow up and become adults. Drs. Sears recommend it.

You could count your blessings. A lot of children have fathers who just don't care at all. But you have an ex who seems to love your son and is involved in his life. The same could be said for your ex's family. It sounds to me like they actually care about your boy. What is the harm in that? Is there harm in that?

Perhaps these are questions you should be asking yourself. Or more pointedly you could ask yourself, "How does my ex's love for my son (1) threaten my relationship with my son, (2) threaten my idea of myself as a good mother, (3) threaten my idea of myself as right, (4) threaten my idea of my ex as wrong or a bad father/person, (5) threaten the justifications I have told myself for holding ideas about my ex and his family that are contrary to reality, (6) threaten my story of myself and reasons for breaking it off with my ex, (7) threaten my ability to dictate what my son thinks of me and his father?"

These questions are much more pressing than the co-sleeping issue, but it will take tremendous courage to answer them honestly.

3 moms found this helpful

Hi Katherine,

Co-sleeping has earned itself quite a bad rep in our society. We have all be convinced that, in order to raise independent children, we cannot allow our children to sleep with us. If we allow it, we believe they will become dependent on us and altogether needy. However, research shows that nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than worrying about what you can or should do to change the relationship between your son and his father, I would offer a new perspective. The closeness your son feels to his father can only serve to strengthen their relationship and give your son comfort, love and support during what is a difficult situation for any kid. This will strengthen your son, not weaken him.

I was recently interviewed for an article on Mindful Mama, that speaks specifically to this issue. http://www.mindful-mama.com/blogs/thrive/archive/2009/07/...

I would also highly recommend Dr. Jay Gordon's book Good Nights. (This link allows you to read the first 18 pages online.) http://books.google.com/books?id=QGDNVxVmc3AC&dq=good...

If I can be of any further help, feel free to contact me. You can also sign up for my newsletter on my website below.
Be well,
G. Brown, M.A.
Child Development Specialist & Parent Educator

3 moms found this helpful

My 7yo son has his own room and bed, but at least half the time we're all piled in our bed. Rarely 1-3 of us are in his room on his bed.

My best friend growing up was an only child of divorced parents. At her mom's, during the week in the school year or weekends in the summer, she slept 100% in her own room. At her dad's during weekends in the school year or weekdays in the sumer, she had her own room/bed but ALWAYS slept with him in his bed. When I'd spend the night, it was 50.50. Sometimes we'd do sleeping bags in her room or the living room...other times both of us would pile in his bed with him. If I spent the weekend at her mom's house in the summer...we stayed in my friends' room in her bed. I knew both her families very well, and they were both fantastic. Just very very different.

One of the reasons her parents split, was their differing views on child rearing. Neither were abusive, neglectful, or ignorant... they were just incompatible. My friend got the best of both worlds, because she got to live in each, :) and her parents had agreed years before that "my house / my rules" was absolute...so her parents never fought/badmouthed each other's style (well i take that back, there was eye rolling...but that was the most either of us ever witnessed...even though my friend said she knew they both "struggle to keep their mouths shut, sometimes." She would remind them, actually...saying "Mom's house, or Dad's house...their rules".

She was also super aware (she was 8 too when we became friends)...that mom and dad just did things differently. And both had positives and negatives. <grinning> She used the positives as ruthlessly as any child...but that's kids for you.

I'm trying to remember when she stopped sleeping with her dad...I think it was one of those gradual things around puberty. So middleschool...but they'd still nap on the couch together "watching a movie" in highschool. (aka...the movie gave them the excuse to not do anything for 2 hours)

2 moms found this helpful

I think you should leave it alone, what is the harm in him getting some extra attention, his life has been already turned upside down from the divorce and he probably doesnt get all that much one on one time with you. When my daughter(11 yrs. old) sees her grandma(paternal father's mother), they always sleep together, whether it be in a bed or camped out on the living room floor and this has never bothered me.

2 moms found this helpful

Well, that is how it is in many families. MANY children still co-sleep at that age, but the Parent's just don't admit it.
In many cultures, they do too.

BUT... I want to "warn" you... just make sure that your son or Ex-Husband etc., does NOT tell anyone that your 8 year old sleeps with Daddy/Grandparents or even you.
The reason is: when my friend's 7 year old daughter told her Teacher that she sleeps with her Parents, the Teacher called CPS... because she thought it was "weird" and inappropriate for a child that age.

So, just take that as a cautionary information.

All the best,

1 mom found this helpful

I would definitely speak with my ex about this situation and put a stop to it as soon as possible. It is unhealthy for an eight year old boy to be sleeping with his grandparents. They need to provide your son his own bed, or if that is not possible, an air mattress or cot to sleep in. If nothing else, they could put blankets or a sleeping bag on the floor in the same room. If he is scared to sleep alone at your dad's house, they need to get him a night light and do a sleep technique similar to Supernanny. He is eight years old, and the sooner he sleeps by himself, the better for all. They need to quit babying him. I would definitely talk to your ex and let him know this is not appropriate and that if it does not stop, you will not let him visit until appropriate arrangements are made.

1 mom found this helpful

My son is 3 and just started sleepovers with his biological father, who also lives with his parents. (I do too-my parents that is) My son sleeps in my bed, his bed, his tent, on the floor in a nest and sometimes on futon type bed in my room. My personal take on it is that if sleep comes and he's comfy it's not big deal. His Dad and I talked about where our son would sleep at his parents house and we agreed he would approach it in the same manner and do what's best for our kiddo.

With that being said, I understand how you feel. You want to maintain a streamline sleep routine for your son and make sure he's being treated like a 'big boy'. So, my advice is talk to his Dad. Does he have his own bed there? His own room? Is he sharing with Dad out of necessity or comfort?

There are nights my son sleeps in my bed for pure comfort and because he needs some cuddle time and that's no big deal in my book. Talk to his Dad and make it about finding a way to reach a happy medium together. Your son is older than mine, but I think this kind of topic spans the years for kids with two homes.

1 mom found this helpful

Eight is not so old. It's probably nice for him to not have to be the big boy when he is with his Dad. There is lots of competition for resources at your house. I would let him cherish his special time when he is with his father and grandparents.

1 mom found this helpful

We co-slept with all of our kids. If our 7 year old could be in our bed, he would. It's just nice to have someone warm to be around. My kids are probably the most independent kids you'll ever see. At 3, when my son was being dropped off for pre-school, he was like, "Bye mom. Don't forget to pick me up, " because he was watching all these kids screaming when their parents were dropping them off....like it was a permanent thing.

Don't stress....would you rather sleep alone or with someone who loves you? We all have the same inner needs. If you son was not ok sleeping with his dad or grandparents, and forced to, THEN you would have a problem.

1 mom found this helpful

Co-sleeping in and of itself is not a bad thing. There are some people who are totally against it, like those who responded here to your request. But in many cultures this is totally normal and recommended until the age of 5. If you are adamant about your husband's family not co-sleeping with your son, then I would say something only if you have a good relationship with your ex and think he would respect your wishes. Otherwise, you should just forget about it, or work on having a better friendship with your ex.

1 mom found this helpful

My son is 7 and he sleeps with me and my husband all the time (plus 2 cats sleep with us too). My 2 nieces - ages 10 and 6 sleep with my brother at his house or with my mother if she is staying there (my brother is divorced). The girls sleep in their mother's room at her house. My son will sleep with his grandparents when we are on vacation with them or when they are staying at our house.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the sleeping arrangements. It probably comforts your son - divorce isn't easy on kids and going back and forth between parents isn't easy even if they are used to it. If it's not affecting him in any way, if he's not being abused, I wouldn't worry about it or the fact that they spoil him a little. He is only 8. If this is the worst thing going on at your husband's house then you have it good. I have much worse stories I can tell you ....

Hope this helps! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

We co-sleep with our girls & even on nights when I end up being crowded out of our "big bed" (to the couch) I don't mind. I know I will miss it when they are grown! Most cultures sleep together, & the sense of closeness is well worth it. Our oldest is now 12 & she almost always sleeps in her own room, but occasionally, she feels alone & scared & wants some cuddle time. Parenting is a 24 hour job.

Also, each household functions differently & I'm sure your boy can understand that. If getting him to sleep by himself at your house is a problem, maybe lay down with him for a while & cuddle & read to him...he is STILL a little boy & w/4 sibs to compete with, he might need some extra attention from you. Your schedule seems pretty full, he might need more time from you & a simple way would be to lay with him til he falls asleep. If that is too much for you to handle, maybe set a time limit...I will lay with you for 15 minutes after our story time & hold your hand & when the time is up, kiss him & leave his room. That might help him feel a little less alone. Or maybe let the sibs sleep together, that might help him feel less alone.

ps So far my girls are very independent & reasonably happy. I don't think co-sleeping has made them wimpy or babyish.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do legally, unless he is abusing your child he has the right to raise his son anyway he wants, as he cannot tell you how to raise your son in your own home. You might try to kindly ask him to have your son sleep in his own bed but that might stir problems with the ex.
Good luck

Hi there,

I thought I would add something from the divorced side of this: ) He's going to learn, and probably already knows, there are different rules at different houses. I hate that when my dtr is with her father I have no control and it drives me nuts. (She's just fine, but its not my way) He's not being harmed and though you may not love it, at all, he is going to have a very different experience at his father's (grandparent's) house than your house. Tough, I know, but he is being loved, possibly coddled, but as your son grows, your concern may take care of itself.

Best to you!

Dear Katharine:

I am sorry you're feeling anxious about this. I'd like to tell you that I agree with the two mamas who answered before me. This doesn't seem like a big deal at all. It's just different. Cuddling is something big boys do also.

My in-laws always had the children sleep with them when they stayed over. There were six of them, three girls and three boys (but not all at the same time!) All of them remember all aspects of staying over as being really sweet and fun including the extravagant meals, trips and toys. Even though they might have thought they were being "babied", the kids appreciated their grandparents' demonstrations of love.

My in-laws are gone now but our teen children STILL climb up in the morning and cuddle us first thing and we love it. I like to think they'll grow up to be very affectionate adults who are comfortable with closeness.

I think your son is really privileged! :)

Best wishes,


When your son comes back from a visit with his dad, does he have any trouble going to sleep alone at home? If he's sleeping normally at your house and not asking for someone to be with him, I think it's fine. It's ok to have the special attention with his dad and grandparents as long as it isn't affecting his daily life at home with you.

Does he have his own room at his dad's house? I think it's important that he have the option of sleeping by himself if he wants it, especially as he approaches adolescence in the next few years.

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I think it is important to just keep treating him like a young man and that is what will be appreciated in time. I wouldn't make a big deal of it, for his sake. Eventually, he may tell his dad and grandparents he is to big to do this.

Okay, here goes....If he has a problem at your home going to sleep by himself then you need to talk to "son" first explain that he has two homes with two set of rules and so on. I had the same issue with my 3rd child and his father, in fact he still has camp outs (since he re-married-before that they all climbed in his bed) so when they are there they ALL sleep together. I have tried countless times to have him put them "TO BED" but in 7 years has not happened.He would say.."oh, I understand, and yes I will have him sleep in his own bed" NEVER happened. Pick your battles..depending oh his disposition he could do it just to despite you. My issue was that he was not going to sleep, as soon as I had him there he would wake up, waked up came to my bed every hour! I could NOT get him to stay in his bed, we have been battling this for 7 years, I finally put the 3 year old in bed with him..they have a double, and a single trundle pull out, the 3 boys sleep in there and take turns on who sleeps with whom...it finally has worked out. Took me long enough! But no help from the ex. I know that when the kids have sleep over with grandparents they sleep in the same bed(sometimes, and not all at once) some sleep on the floor in the same room...they love it. My oldest is 13 1/2 they are all very loving kids, give hugs and kisses all the time no matter where we are or who is around. (not trying to vent, just giving you a bit of been there and this is where we are now)
I understand you feeling that he is not being treated like a big boy. But if he is functioning well at your home, and you are not having an issue with him living by your house rules then try to embrace it. He is growing up no matter how hard you or they try to keep him little, this will pass with a blink of an eye! Take the time to enjoy it.
Mine all 6(3 with previous, 3 with current)still crawl in bed on some mornings, it is such a blessing,you can get some true quality time with them, and find out what is going on in their lives (especially as they get older!) Use it to your advantage ;) Good luck! I don't think you are over reacting, take a DEEP breath and weigh the pro's and con's!

my niece always came back with attitude after visitation and my sister (they both live with me) had alot of patient damage control as she puts it. there is always gonna be something. deal with it with patience.

Your feelings are OK as they are of a concerned mother...

I've had to learn that things are not always as we want them to be when it comes to our MILs... I am married so I can't comment on the divorce portion but I pose a couple questions...

Can your ex afford to get him is own bed? Can he afford an extra bedroom for the child? Does it bother your son? Does

Another life lesson I've learned is how to speak up when it's necessary and working against what we teach our son at home. For example, not to be a little brat and throw tantrums... grandma (husband mom) loves to see them and encourages them... we (both mom & dad) do not encourage them and nip it in the butt... so when he does it at grandmas and we're there both or either one of us steps in (although she hates it and tries to weazle him outta punishment) we stick to the punishment (timeout) and make sure it occurs nearby us physically to ensure it is carried out.

Good luck sweetie... it's a hard one but maybe its time for a talk with the little one to see how its affecting him. :-)

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