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