Helping Kids Sleep In Their Own Beds

Dear Sara,

I have two children, a boy five and a girl who just turned ten. I have been divorced for about three years now. My son is scared of the dark and likes to be with me all of the time. We now live in my grandparents’ old house and my bedroom is downstairs and both of their bedrooms are upstairs where there is no toilet. My daughter won’t sleep in her bed unless my son sleeps in his bed. My son did sleep in his room one night but came downstairs crying because he had to go to the bathroom so bad. He ended up having an accident right before he got to the toilet. My father says it’s fine because he grew up in the same house as a child and had to go downstairs to use the bathroom. I really don’t know what to do. I try to explain to my daughter that it is OK for my son to sleep with me because he is way younger than her. Then she says it isn’t fair and that I don’t love her as much as I love my son. I really don’t know what else to try. Please help me.

Dear Bonnie,

It sounds like both of your kids are pretty insecure about sleeping upstairs. When they get used to the new arrangements they will be more comfortable. Most homes now are arranged on one floor with the bathroom close to the bedrooms and this is what they are probably used to. Having to travel downstairs by himself may be too much to expect of a five-year-old at night.

Why don’t you try sleeping upstairs with the kids for a while? Neither one is very comfortable up there and may just need some company until they are used to the arrangements. After they have had time to adjust, you can move back to your room downstairs.
Good luck,


  1. Put your foot down and tell the kid to grow a pair. He should be able to sleep in his own bed and descend a simple flight of stairs if he has to go wee-wee in the middle of the night. If he can’t solve this little issue, God help him later in life.

  2. #1 I’m 92 a mother of 7 – lived in “the good old days” I found that children in general love to have new ‘adventures’. Perhaps you could make the sleeping upstairs as their ‘tree house’ = give each one’s room a portable potty – like those used for the bedside. One of their chores each day is to bring down their little insert and empty it in the big toilet – rinse it out and return it to their tree house . ( you may have to explain that they wouldn’t want to smell the yukky odor if they don’t)
    Parenting is actually controlling the atmosphere you wish to make in your home. Besides praying with them each night and specifically asking God to make them strong and willing to be brave; approach life as it is and put a few frills on it to help them accept reality. You might tell them how you wish you had a tree house room —– main thing is not to feed into their fears and manipulativeness (they are past masters of the latter) – My dear young mother – remember to smile a lot and remind your children that for now YOU are their mother – you have the last say. (at the same time be willing to listen and explain why things aren’t the way they’d like- that life is like that, but there are children without a roof over their heads and you are all blessed to be together in a house that held other loved family members…’ll know best what to say — just keep asking God for His direction — He doesn’t fail us if we ask, believing that He is in control. ( in the not too distant future you’ll be looking back as your adult children become your friends, but not for now.)

  3. Depending on how many steps, how steep and the lighting, they could be challenging for a 5 yr old in the dark. The stairs in some older houses were steep and not well lit.
    You might try regulating his fluid intake in the evening so he can hold it until morning.
    My guess is, this is more than being afraid of the dark. He has lost his father and I suspect he is afraid his mother might leave as well.
    Reassure him you are there and will be there for him. Tuck them in at night, read to them and assure them you will be there in the morning.
    He may need to know you are in the house. His father is gone and he may need to know his mother is still there.
    You could try sleeping upstairs with them until they get used to this environment.

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