Will You Please Get a Room? Please?

Dear Mr. Dad: We have two boys, ages four and nine. The nine-year-old has no problem sleeping in his own bed, but the four-year-old constantly wants to sleep with my husband and me. I don’t mind an occasional “sleep over”–especially when my husband is away on business and the bed seems so empty. But lately, my son wants to be in our bed every night. That seems a little old to me. Is co-sleeping with a four-year-old okay?

A: I wish I could give you a definitive Yes or No, but the real answer is the completely unsatisfying “It depends.” There’s a lot of controversy out there about co-sleepng (or “the family bed” or “bed sharing” or whatever else you want to call it). Some authorities, such as the Children’s Health Network and the American Academy of Pediatrics say the practice is dangerous and they point to studies that show that the incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is higher when babies share a bed with parents. Others say that sharing a bed is fine, and they point to the fact that something like 80 percent of the world’s families practice co-sleeping. Unfortunatley, neither of those answers applies to your situation: At four, your son is far too old for you to worry about SIDS. And, like it or not, about 80 percen of the world’s families live in much, much smaller spaces than we do in the U.S., and the option for famiy members to sleep in separate rooms isn’t even on their radar.
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Sign Language for Babies

I’ve been hearing a lot about teaching children sign language. What’s the deal? Supposedly baby signing teaches the child to communicate. But can’t my child communicate in other ways? Is teaching my baby to communicate while she is so young pushing her too hard? Is it worth doing or is it some kind of scam?

A few decades ago, researchers began to notice that children whose parents were hearing impaired and who taught their children to sign, were able to communicate before they were nine months old. Children with two hearing parents don’t usually have much to say until after their first birthday. If you think about it, using the hands to communicate makes a lot of sense. After all, babies have a lot more control over their fingers and hands than they do over their tongue and mouth.
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Communicating With Your Spouse

Ever since our baby was born, it seems like my wife and I are growing apart from each other. We hardly even talk anymore. She’s a stay-at-home mom, and I work a lot. We used to be great at communication, talking to each other about our days, discussing our child and what she is learning. I’m afraid our relationship isn’t as strong as it used to be. What happened?

Nearly all new parents experience a drop in the quality of their communication. Half the time it’s permanent. Here are some of the factors that researchers have found contribute to this decline in couples’ communication skills:
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Am I Boring My Child?

I’m a stay-at-home dad, and I’m worried that my daughter will get bored at home with me and with the same toys. I want to be a great father and make sure my child is stimulated and learning new things, and is enjoying her surroundings. What do I do?

Wow, what a great question! You’ve really hit on an incredibly common fear-not only for dads but for stay-at-home moms too.

Rather than come up with a list of activities, the best way you can deal with your concerns is to try to think about things a little differently. First, try to remember that you’re not a walking video arcade; you do not have to entertain your child during her every waking moment.
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Childproofing

Our baby isn’t crawling yet, but he will be pretty soon. Basically he goes for anything within his reach. I’m assuming he’ll be the same way when he starts crawling. What should we do to childproof our house?

Once your baby realizes that he’s able to move around by himself, his mission in life will be to locate–and race you to–the most dangerous, life-threatening things in your home. So if you haven’t already begun the never-ending process of child-proofing your house, better start now.

The first thing to do is get down on your hands and knees and check things out from your baby’s perspective. Taking care of those pesky wires and covering up your outlets is only the beginning, so start with the basics:
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Sleeping Arrangements

Some friends of ours share their king-sized bed with their two children. They say that families all over the world sleep in the same “family bed” that it’s good for everyone. “Co-Sleeping” as they call it, still seems weird to me. Doesn’t it interfere with mom and dad’s relationship to sleep with the kids in the bed? It also seems pretty unsafe to me. What do you think?

Most pediatricians will probably tell you that your baby should get used to sleeping by him- or herself as soon after birth as possible. The reasoning is that in American culture we emphasize early independence, so babies should adapt quickly to being away from their parents-especially if both parents work and the children are in day care.
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