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Your 4-year-old now
Four-year-olds need about 11 1/2 to 12 hours of sleep a night. One of the biggest sleep problems among preschoolers is refusing to stay alone in their own bed at night.
If this sounds familiar, it helps to have an idea of what's causing the problem. Sometimes a child is jealous of a new or younger sibling. Making a fuss at bedtime can be your preschooler's bid for attention she feels she's missing out on during the day. Spending several short stretches of one-on-one time with your preschooler during the day can help relieve her anxiety. So can having a consistent bedtime ritual.
Fears (of the dark, of the monster in the closet) are another common cause of bedtime resisting. It's best to be respectful, not dismissive, of them. Look for ways to help your child feel stronger and more secure: Spraying an imaginary "monster-proofing suit" on her before bed, for example.
For some kids this age, transitioning from a family bed to a bed in their own room is difficult. For others, there's no obvious reason for refusing solo sleep. Some sleep experts recommend lying down next to your child until she's asleep, though this can become a tough habit to break. Others suggest checking back every few minutes until your child falls asleep for a few weeks. If your child migrates to your bed in the middle of the night, lead her calmly and quietly back to her own room, explaining that your room is for adults only, at least until it's light outside.
Whatever approach you take, consistency and firmness will help you achieve your goal more quickly.
Your life now
Make a quick inventory of your medicine cabinet. Now that your child is entering the scrapes-and-cuts years, be sure you have bandages of various sizes, tweezers for slivers, antibiotic ointment, and other basics on hand — and that your babysitter or anyone you leave in charge knows where they are. Also keep children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen in the house, safely stored where your child can't reach it, and ask babysitters to call you first if they think she needs a dose. Keep an ice pack (or a designated bag of frozen peas) in the freezer. Hint: Those kid-friendly bandages patterned with favorite characters really do heal boo-boos faster — especially when accompanied by a hug.
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