ASK A MOM: Winter coats, bed wetting, and magical secrets
WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
Q: How do you get a stubborn child to wear a jacket in Winter?—Name Withheld
A: I have no idea. My 7-year-old surfer son, Hutch, pretends it’s summer NoMatterWhat. Even in the dead of December, or rainy days standing in a deluge at the bus stop, he’s in shorts and no coat. I’ve given up. Judge all you want. The fact that he’s been at the doctor three times since the start of school is no coincidence.
I’ve never thought jacket-or-no-jacket was a hill to die on, but because you asked… I deferred to a child psychologist friend who said the question wasn’t dumb and she gets it a lot. She suggested it might be a sensory issue. Rather than assume your child is being stubborn, she suggested you ask them calmly, “Why do you not like wearing a coat?”
She said the coat might feel too restrictive on their bodies and like they can’t move. Or, they might get too hot. Or, she said, if they’re in high school and don’t use a locker, they might not have a place to put it throughout the day.
She also suggested allowing a child to go shopping with you to pick one out they like. Might not be as heavy as you want or not your style, but it’s better than nothing.
Good luck. I’ll try it with you.
Q: Our little girl is five this month and still won’t sleep in her own bed. If we put her in her own room, she wets the bed. I get so tired of washing sheets that I just let her sleep with us, but I know it has to stop. What’s the best way to handle this?—Lauren
A: It might not be completely factual that every parent at some point has sleep issues with every child—few facts ever use the word “every”—but I believe this anecdotal non-scientific blanket statement is 100% truth. How many conversations have you had with others about sleeping patterns for kids? Parents ask doctors. Friends complain to friends. The book market is saturated with experts telling you what to try. (The asterisks on their advice always seems to be: “Try this and see! What works for one child might not work for another.”)
Last February, someone wrote into this column to ask how to keep toddlers in their bed, and lots of you have sent various versions of that question since. The recommendation back then from Gretchen Hunter, a Charlotte clinical neuropsychologist with Child & Family Development, hasn’t changed. She suggested implementing a consistent nighttime routine that included limiting toys in bedrooms (only books; no “noise” toys). And, if you’re worried about an older child—like a 5-year-old—wetting the bed, add into that routine having no drinks an hour before bedtime.
Also, Pull-Ups. You can be a 5-year-old child and still be in Pull-Ups. It’s an added expense, but pediatricians will tell you there is nothing abnormal about being 5 and not making it through the night. (My pediatrician had to reassure me about that on both my older kids.) Pick your poison and take one task on at a time. If learning to sleep in their own bed—giving you a child-free night—is more important than overnight potty training, tackle that first.
Similar to the many books with advice, you can find a million items on Amazon that promise success in teaching your kids to stay in their rooms. Tents on beds to create an enclosed space, special clocks, gimmicky decorations, or things to make a bedroom more “personal” to encourage them to stay there. Same asterisks here: What works for one child might not work for another.
But on that note, I did spend an entire chapter in my book The Juggle is Real bemoaning my son Hutch’s sleeping issues when he was younger. At the end of that chapter, I included Facebook comments from other parents. I shared these before; they’re worth sharing again:
Christine G. Three nights. Every time he gets up, you put him back. No hugs, no talk (minimal, just to say “back to bed” calmly), just put him back. Your arms will fall off. Your back will hurt. You and everyone around you will be miserable. But it WILL work.
Michelle P. Glow in the dark stickers. If he stays in his big boy bed all night, then he gets glow in the dark stickers to put on his pajamas the next night. It worked wonders for my little one, twenty-something years ago.
Annette Mc. If you find something that works, please patent it.
Q: Hi, Molly! I have two kids, ages 10 and 6. My 6-year-old still believes in Santa and Elf on the Shelf, but 10-year-old has figured it out. How can I make sure he doesn’t ruin it for my little one?—Ruby
A: By making him feel special for being old enough to understand. Say whatever you would normally say to reward him for being more mature and more responsible to help keep this magical secret for the younger child. My two older children are 10 and 7; the oldest a girl who likes to be in charge. Last year she googled “Is Santa Real?” during homeschool in the midst of COVID—another reason to despise virtual school. I instinctively jumped into the role where it sounds you are now: Making her feel important by consciously leaning on her to help keep it from her younger brother.
The more someone believes, the more magical it all feels. There IS magic in these holidays, no matter which holiday a family celebrates. We—society—look forward to this time all year. I said all those things to my oldest last year. Could she help us keep the secret? Could she be trusted to be in on it?
She has. She even caught me moving Elfie the other night, rolled her eyes, and said my new hiding place was “lame.” She walked around to help find a better one. Honestly, it was a bonding moment for us.
But always remember, no one wants to not believe. Ultimately, belief is fun. So yes, make your older child feel unique and special to help keep it going for younger kids, but also… keep in mind the magic of this season is real for adults and children, whether the actual characters we talk about are or not.
Stay-at-home mommy blogger Emily Parker wrote a letter about how to answer, “Is Santa real?” She compared it to Disney World, where you know Mickey Mouse isn’t actually Mickey Mouse, but when you get there and meet him in costume, you get caught up in thinking it’s the real Mickey. The more you appreciate the magic in that feeling, the more it perpetuates the big spirit surrounding it all.
Click here to see the full letter she wrote to her son for when he asked her about Santa, if you’d like to use some of her creative wording.
The countdown is on. A New Year is in full view. Good luck remembering the Elf, checking your lists, and enjoying time together as we all march ahead.
Merry to all,
MOLLY GRANTHAM is an anchor, author, and mom of three. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or catch her on WBTV News at 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 11 p.m.