One of the major parenting problems that we hear all that time is that of a child wanting to sleep with a parent all the time or some of the time. This will disrupt sleep patterns for both the parent and the child. Honestly the biggest impact can be on the parents as their quality time together after the child has gone to bed can be seriously compromised or non-existent. This dependency may be Ok initially but the longer it goes on the more of an impact it can have.
Some of the time this dependency may mean that you have to go to sleep with the child and then try and get them in their own bed when they have fallen asleep and we all know how hard that is to do. Alternatively it may be that the child wanders in throughout the night. A lot of parents will accept this as they do not want to get up and sort their child at 2 o’clock in the morning.
So how do you put an end to this behaviour or indeed stop it from happening in the first place. Well there are a few ways; the best is to carry out all or as many as you can of the follows pieces of advice:
Start at an early age; When you child is in their cot in their room it is much harder for them to interfere with your sleep and they are more receptive to learning their sleep patterns from you. If your child is in a bed and can easily walk to your bed then it will be harder to fix.
Positivity; be positive when you talk about them sleeping alone, don’t say me and daddy cant sleep or your waking us up all the time and we get grumpy. Concentrate on the positives of them sleeping alone saying things like “wow your three now you get to sleep in your very own bed like a grown up” The difference may seem small but it is way different in the ears of a child.
Routine; Get a proper bedtime routine, something like bath, story, cuddles, chat and night light. Keep to it every night and end up with them in bed all happy and snuggly and safe.
If the child has already parked themselves in your bed at night or you are in there’s then the following actions may help:
Small steps; take small steps, if your child is accustomed to sleeping in your bed every single night then it may be a step too far to ask them to sleep in their bed all night every night from day one. Maybe say they can have a 15 minute cuddle or sleep in a sleeping bag alongside your bed for a few nights.
Rewards; Some parents have found that reward stars have worked well. A gold star every time they sleep through in their own bed may seem like a small reward but to some children it’s an amazing achievement.
Outsmart the sneakers! Try and head off your children before they reach your bed. If you hang a bell on your door handle so you wake when they come in you can head them off, take their hand and lead them back. After a few nights of failure they will hopefully give up.
Clock; make sure they have a clock they can read in their bedroom and give them a time they are allowed to wake up. So maybe 7? If it’s a digital clock you could even cover up the minutes so they can only see the hours. Then tell them that they can only get up when the number is a 7.
No special circumstances; Don’t allow any excuses even if they are ill or scared of the weather or something they have seen on television. Do not let them in your bed, go to theirs for a bit lie with them and comfort them or sit in a chair with them. Even sleep on a mattress alongside their bed if you have to.
Rethink bedtime: If the child cannot sleep without you then let it continue but withdraw yourself slowly. Instead of the bed try a blow up bed alongside, then a chair then sitting on the floor by the door, then the hall etc. Gradually wean your way out of the room.
Make their bedroom attractive and welcoming; there are so many different decorations and furnishings available these days that any bedroom can be made to look amazing and welcoming and safe. If your child loves the space then they are more likely to sleep well in there. Try princess beds or sports car beds or just introduce colours that they love.
I hope these hints and tips have helped you get through one of the minefields of parenthood. It is, as with most things, trial and error and perseverance. Do that and I am sure you have many peaceful nights ahead of you.