The Teen Doctor

Answers to your questions about adolescents

My Son is Co-Sleeping With Stepfather

How to Think About The Family Bed

Dear Dr. G.,

I am a divorced father. I see my two teenage daughters and 7 year old son every other weekend. My ex-wife remarried two years ago to a man who seems like he's good to my kids. There is one thing though that is really bothering me that I would like to get your opinion about before I create problems.

Last time my kids were with me for the weekend my 7 year old son asked to sleep with me. I was surprised because he has his own bed and has always slept there since the divorce 4 years ago. He told me that when he is home with his mother he sleeps in bed with his mother and stepfather every night.

When I heard this it made me crazy. Is this normal? Do I need to worry about psychological issues or sex abuse? I am scared out of my mind but don't want to create unnecessary trouble. You always seem so level-headed. Please give me some suggestions about what to do.

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I will do whatever I need to. My kids mean everything to me.

A Worried Father

 

Dear Father,

I am always delighted to hear from fathers. Divorce, remarriage and step-families come with a unique set of issues and new people involved in the mix. Of course, you have concerns about this sleeping arrangement. This co-sleeping arrangement otherwise referred to as "The Family Bed" has sparked debate among both parents and experts.

Those who are pro "Family Bed" believe that it promotes a sense of attachment and comfort between parents and their children. Those who are anti "Family Bed" are concerned that it promotes dependence and interferes with healthy individuation.

I have to tell you that my opinion is that 7 is a bit too old to be sleeping with a mother and stepfather. You say that your son has slept alone for some time now at least when he is at your house. While I would not jump to the conclusion that there is anything sexually inappropriate going on at your ex-wife's house I nonetheless share your concern.

Here is what I suggest you do:

Tell your ex-wife that you need to have a talk with her. I don't know the nature of your relationship with your ex but I do know that this issue can't be ignored. Ask her why your son is sleeping with her. Has he been having anxiety issues? When did this co-sleeping arrangement start and how does she feel it is affecting your son? Share your concerns in a non-confrontational manner. Let her know that you want your son to grow up psychologically healthy and that the co-sleeping issue is a major concern for you. You certainly have a right to express your concerns.If you and your ex do not arrive at a satisfactory agreement then I suggest that you seek a mediator or a therapist to consult with together. 

Good luck with this delicate issue.

Dr. G. 

For more articles like this see my website:

http://drbarbaragreenberg.com/

Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents.

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