When are Kids Too Old to Sleep with Mom and Dad?

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Oh Boy! Co-sleeping, often referred to as bed sharing, is one of those hot button issues that receives as much hostility from those defending their position as breastfeeding does. And for most parents, even those who swore up and down that they WOULD NOT allow their child to sleep with them, it happens almost accidentally. Sometimes it’s just easier to nurse a baby when they are in bed with you. Or a young child has fears at night so you lie down with them. Or maybe, you enjoy the extra snuggle time with your little one. Even more common, whether parents admit it or not is that allowing your children to sleep with you can be downright easier than fighting with a fussy toddler at bedtime night after night after night.

And for the record, ALL parents should know that everyone from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the Mayo Clinic are against co-sleeping due to the hazards that it can pose to your child. The question here is not for against bed sharing but when it becomes unnatural, wrong, or just plain weird. Is there an age where a child should not sleep with mom or dad? Does the gender of the child matter? Regardless of how it starts, and how you feel about it you know that at some point it has to end, right? But when? When are kids simply too old to sleep with mom and dad?

Let’’s see what the experts have to say about allowing children to sleep with mom and dad.

In March of 2007, the New York Times published a research article on this very subject. The article believes that an older child sleeping with parents does not do enough to maintain a healthy separation between adults and children. And obviously, a 10 year old in the bed is quite a hindrance to martial intimacy. In the study, it suggested that children sleeping with parents can be responsible for destroying a marriage and even confusing children about their sexual identity.

Should a pubescent boy who wakes up every morning with an erection, be sleeping next to his mother? Should a young girl, perhaps one that is budding breasts or entering menstruation sleep next to her father? Most people would agree that allowing a 10 or 11-year-old child to sleep with a parent of the opposite sex is wrong or somehow taboo in today’’s world. And outwardly, those who disagree with co-sleeping would likely be freaked out by such behavior. But to the family sharing the bed, all might seem cozy and completely non-sexual. However, it is slightly disturbing to understand WHY an older child would still WANT to sleep with their parents.

A study out of the University of Michigan showed that children who slept with their parents beyond the age of 2 many into the preteen years, were developmentally stunted and even faced years and years of sleep issues later in life. A poll conducted by Mothering dot come also showed that 40% of moms believe co-sleeping should end between the ages of 3 and 5, while 34% believed kids between 6 and 8 should be given the red light to the parental bedroom door. Around 24% believed that co sleeping shouldn’’t occur to begin with.

According to the Family Law Association, differences in belief on co-sleeping especially as older, opposite sex parents are concerned is often a point of contention. And since there are no laws surrounding an age when children shouldn’’t sleep in a parent’’s bed, this becomes grey area. Normally, when it is brought to the attention of a family law attorney psychological evaluations of the child are ordered to see if there are any issues of foul play involved. And subsequently, it turns bonding moments and co-sleeping into an issue of sexuality. Which for most people, it is not.

Bottom line is that at some point your child will NOT sleep with you any longer. Every family has a different arrangement and set up in place. There are tons of families who fall asleep in the same bed watching television every night. There are other families who keep the marital or parental door completely locked and off limits. What needs to be addressed are the issues that surround the co sleeping. If they are developmental in nature as it pertains to older children, then something needs to be done. If they are matters of convenience based on house size or bed availability then there might not be a lot of options. What is most important is being cognizant of how ALL the parties’’ involved parent, spouse, and child feel about the matter.

Still. And obviously, there comes a point in a parent child relationship when privacy should be respected and separation should begin. There also comes a time in a marriage where co-sleeping will greatly, if not gravely affect the marital relationship. So deciding when a child is too old to sleep with mom and dad becomes a judgment call.

From the outside, it might seem creepy for mother and son, or father and daughter or even daughter and mother and father and son to be sharing a bed into the pre-teen or teenage years. It’’s certainly not ‘‘normal,’’ at least as far as statistics show. But the closeness and ways that each and every family bond with one another are different, and every family has its own definition of what is right and what is wrong.

What do you think? Is there a certain age when children should no longer sleep with their parents?

25 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 10 yr. old daughter who loves to sleep with my husband and I when we let her. We are a “snuggle” family. Even if we’re watching t.v., depending on the day, you might find all three of us piled up beside each other. My husband works out of town every once and a while and my daughter and I like the comfort of each other through the night. She has told us before, that it’s not fair that mom and dad always get to sleep by each other and she’s got to sleep alone. Hmmm… She’s got a point there, I guess. But, I don’t think as she gets older, she will want to share her space. So, I think this May last at the most till she’s around 13.
    But, when I was growing up, my best friends dad would occasionally let his younger daughter sleep with him and as a kid, I thought that was strange because my relationship with my father wasn’t healthy. So, I had a hard time understanding that bond between them. But, I only knew my friends father to be a very good man, so I trusted it was not a bad thing.
    So, I think it depends on so many veriables, the child, the parents, the back grounds, reasons…
    But, I do think it’s best to let family’s bond in ways that are natural to them.
    Thanks

    • I agree with you. My almost 10 year old has been sharing a bed with me since birth. He had a crib but it was never used. My husband, (his father) wound up sleeping in my sons bed. This has been the norm since. To my family, this is ok because it’s all they know, but to any outsiders, they look at it as if it were child abuse.To me they have a guilty conscience. After my nephew was born, he was cosleeper until about 11, I always said there’s no way I would do that! lol
      Anyway, We are in the process of buying a house and I think there he will want his own bed. But if not, that’s ok with me. He is an only child. This bed we sleep in has been “his” too, and I feel when he is ready to move on, he will. I somehow don’t see him sleeping with Mommy in high school. (He is in 5th grade now.) I am all for co sleeping. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

  2. Ok then you are one weirdo! Some people don’t have a clue of what the word Structure for a child means! I bet when he does NT want o shower that’s ok to he will when he feels like it in his lifetime. Probably won’t want to take out the tray or Ave any responsibility either! Really?
    We wonder why our society is so messed up?

  3. I think passing judgement on someone else’s family dinamic is more disturbing than a child sleeping with their parent. Shame on you Connie for attacking her like that. Your delivery was just wrong!

    I personally have a almost 9yr old daughter & I am going back and forth with this situation as well. I have one child and as much as I love the extra room in my bed on the nights I put her in her room, I also find myself missing that snuggle time with her. How I see it, this “window” of time is going to grow smaller & smaller as she gets a little older & than I am going to be missing it that much more! I say….do what makes you & your family comfortable! There isn’t anything I enjoy more than snuggling with my daughter!

    • Love your comment Amy…well done you…i have got a little girl too and ocassionally we sleep together…i love being close to her, giving her hugs and feel her breath on my face. I know she grows up and i will never ever get the chance to hold this little human being in my arms the way i do it now.

  4. When there is a sleep-over, how does a co-sleeping middle school child (11,12?) explain to his/her friend that they will be going to sleep with mommy while their friend sleeps alone? Or does the other child get invited into the bed too, only to return home the next day & tell his/her parents??
    Or, on the flipside, how does a co-sleeper go to a friend’s for a sleepover? Or camp? Or on a trip with a friend? Do they ask to sleep withtge friend’s mimmy? Or the camp counselor?
    Ohhhhhhh, MAYBE they just don’t get to do those fun childhood things!!
    Why do none of the pro co-sleeping paents discuss developmental, psychological, emotional impacts (present & future) on the child? Privacy, independence, sexuality (exploring their bodies, realizing their parents need their private intimate alone time) being able to COPE with being alone.
    Do u cuddle, wake up wrapped around your 12 year old? 9, 8, 7 year old? How are they supposed to learn boundaries and also explore new & different things? Aren’t you afraid they’ll live with you forever because they know no other way? You are parents & your children’s brains aren’t fully develpied until their 21. Why are they chosing? Guide them, parent them, they are looking to you for that!!!!
    Wow, where does the line get drawn??

    • I agree. I’m so tired of hearing parents say that their kid will decide, I’ve even heard this about potty training, after I told the mom we put my 6month old on a baby toilet once a day she scolded me. Her son was 3 and just “wasn’t” ready to try. I made it a fun experience where I would sing to him a cute song and after the song he would get off. He is almost 2 and dose great on the toilet. We have a ruitinee bed time. We read to him which he LOVES, then we sing him a song. After that we turn off his light and one of us stays with him 5-15 minutes depending on what we think he needs for that night. We’ve made it so he can’t close his door by accident so if he needs us he’ll get up and come to us. Which hardly ever happens. Children need love, nurturing, and structure. My son wakes up happy. And he knows hee loved Even with the rules.

      • Honestly thank you ! I see my son every second weekend and he lives with his father and when he is with me he sleeps in the same bed. You have opened my eyes to see that its not healthy and your right if he needs me he will come to me. I guess I just feel like I am missing out so I cherish the time we have together but your absolutely correct. Hes not a baby any more and I cant keep treating him like one

  5. What if your child has or goes on sleep-over, goes to camp, or goes on a trip with a friend’s family??? When they stay at Grandma’s, does she let her pubescent grandson stay in bed with her???

  6. I have family member who sleeps with HER 15year old son. He can’t sleep over at people’s houses Cuz he needs to sleep with his mom. His sister Even feels uncomfortable ^& her marriage suffers. Their needs to be limits

  7. I see this situation with my sister and her almost 13 year old son. The rest of us in the family think it’s totally weird and that my sister and her husband are doing major damage to my nephew. The kid has his own room, so they call it his room, but all his belongings are still in their room and he is afraid to sleep in his room. I think it’s just about the weirdest thing ever and I don’t understand. When he has friends over for a sleepover he sleeps in his room and pretends that that is his room the whole time. Which tells me that they know it’s weird and I don’t want the friends to find out. I mean come on what gives already? The teach my nephew zero responsibility, he has zero tours, he’s not an independent thinker, & I think it’s all because they don’t force him to grow up at all. They think it’s cute that he still wants to cuddle, but I think that baby part of life is over, and it’s time to prepare him for being a young adult already. You’re almost 13 years old, and it’s time to grow up a bit. And he hasn’t even learn to sleep in his own bed yet?! It’s crazy, and super weird, & I believe ultimately damaging to my nephews near future.

  8. I was FORCED to share a bedroom AND the bed with my mother for many years after my parents divorced. I am the daughter. I found it disgusting, morbid, humiliating and so horrendous that now, at almost age 49, I am still shocked I was forced to do so. My brother had his own bedroom with a door he kept closed and locked. I was forced to sleep with our mother for years and she chronically beat me, humiliated me and forced me to be the household slave, too. I was given meager food while my brother was fed like a king. If he even mowed the lawn once per year, that was all he did and you would have thought he’d painted the Sistine Chapel over how she raved over his efforts. Meanwhile, I cooked and cleaned every day from age nine onward and to this day, I resent all I was forced to do under complete tyranny, PLUS I couldn’t even have my own space. The very IDEA she thought it would be okay for me to share her bed and the bedroom with her instead of finding a rental with three bedrooms.

  9. I would love some input on this situation. I had a boyfriend, who is 32, and has an 11 year old daughter. He also has a 9 year old son. But his daughter feels the need to sleep with her dad every time they are at his house. He has 50/50 custody of his children, so it’s not like he doesn’t get to see them. We have only been dating for 5 months, and when I would stay over there not to long after we got together, he would even let his daughter sleep with us. Just Because she wanted to. I even told him I felt uncomfortable, and yet he did nothing.. his son would try to sleep with us too, but he would tell him no, but never his daughter.
    There has been tines where he has taken off all his clothes to change, or just got out of the shower, and didn’t even ask his daughter to leave the room So he can change. He would be naked, showing it all in front of his 11 year old daughter.. it was so incredibly uncomfortable for me to be in there while she is in there and he is naked, and it was no big deal to either of them. she looked at him and then looked back at the TV like it was nothing.. I honestly find their relationship to be a little weird. It’s an unsettling feeling I have.. I mean, he was a great dad , and that’s why I liked him in the first place, because I also have 2 children. It was always weird, but I never said anything.. but one night, while me and my kids were over his place to stay the night, my 7 year old daughter started crying and not feeling good, and asked to sleep with us. This was the first time ever she even asked to lay in the same bed as us, so I didn’t care, but when he came in the rokm, he got upset she was still in the bed with me, and wasn’t going to sleep in the other room. When u said she is sleeping with is, he said no and that she needed to sleep elsewhere. I told him about her not feeling good, and that his kids, especially his 11 year old daughter had slept with us nemerous times, but my 7 year old daughter couldn’t!!!! I was baffled..
    Not only does she see him naked, sleep with him, but she also doesn’t have any chores at his house, because he makes his son do it all, and when he would talk about doing things, and going olaces, he would always say he needs to bring his daughter, but never his son..

    Is it me, or is this a little strange?? Advise, and/or comments would be great.. but please nothing rude!!!

  10. Sorry to add more, but I forgot to add this.. she is NOT able to sleep with her mom and her moms boyfriend because she is too old, and also has to do dishes, sweep, and do other chores at her mom’s, as well as her little brother… I just don’t get why her dad is this way?!?

  11. This is abusive, period. Everything you described is inappropriate to the max. Many people talk about ‘people in other countries’ but last time I looked those same people lead very ‘American’ lives. This whole topic has me shaking my head. Get out of that relationship, from my outsider opinion, it couldnt be more clear that something is very wrong, additionally he does not show you, your requests, or your children the respect of a ‘bed mate’.

  12. I feel bad for the kids they should learn to sleep on there own. What if you want to have sex with the other parent? That is right you can’t because the kid is in your bed. This is what is wrong with the world today we let the kids do what they want an the parents are divorced quick because of this.

  13. when my son has sleep overs, they set up camp in the livingroom. He has no problem sleeping away from me. He also has no problem sleeping outside of our home. He is just used to and comfortable with going to sleep w Mommy while we are home. That’s all he’s known since birth. The reason he doesn’t tell his friends is because in reality, it is none of their business. (p.s. 9 out of 10 of his friends have or continue to cosleep. Parent’s talk.) Some kids still sleep with a stuffed toy or a blanket, they don’t let their friends know that either. Why not you ask? These are little things that children carry with them for security. None of these things hurt, beat, molest or abuse, so I really think you people who are so against it should use all your time and energy to find out who is causing real harm to their children and try to make a difference in that child’s life. And if it still bothers no, no-one said you have to accept it. But be respectable or keep your 2 cents to yourself.

    • Can you spell denial? I don’t have my own child i need to worry for. I had a friend who was wondering if this was wrong or right, decided to surf the net and see what other parents and docs say. After reading everyone and the article…ummm i say be a parent not a friend. Teach your kids boundaries otherwise you’ll have hell to pay when they are a teen. Dealing with this early on can prevent future social problems. I have nephew who slept in his parents bed for years. He ditched school and was a bully when he went. Has major hatred for women. He is now 20 and cant keep a job. Just does what he wants when he wants and no respect for authority. Reading this article makes me wonder if his parents put their foot down then, maybe my nephew could wound up with a better outcome in life. Im baffled how some of these moms & dads are willing the play russian roulette with the future of their child.

  14. I am in a relationship with a man that still does the co sleep and shower thing. They always sit together, hold hands together, sleep, shower, when at restaurants, she makes sure her seat is touching, her body touching. Eating from his plate.
    On the flip side, he is a great dad and attentive to her every call. But as his partner, i am on the outside.
    I am lonely. I walk by myself, sleep in another room, sit by myself. They go on dates and eat out. From my side, i am heartbroken and alone, from their side, they dont even notice i there.
    Example: a family ski trip for five days
    He and his almost 12yr old share a bed and a room. My kids and i in another room. On the ski fields, them two can ski alone together for many hours before he realizes he hasnt seen me for over 3 hrs. Meanwhile, i skiing on my own. My kids older teenagers, doing their own thing. I do spend a little time with my kids, but they developing into independent adults in a couple yrs.
    Even meals they attached to each other. Did i mention we been in relationship nearly 2.5 yrs. Its upsetting, forgive me for wincing!

    • Hi Belinda. Does your partner know how you feel? It may be that he doesn’t. (I am in no way taking sides.) However, I just feel that looking on the positive side, he may feel that because he is that way with his daughter, that you are that way with your kids, and not even realize that you feel like an outsider. He may also feel very secure in your relationship and may just assume you share the same feelings.
      I personally would try speaking with him about how you feel. If he is a good man that cares about your feelings, he will understand and try to make adjustments to make sure all those who are close to him, his partner (you) and his kids, feel loved and appreciated.
      I wish you much happiness.

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