Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Should I lie down in my child's bed at night?

Every family is unique.  This is never more true than when it come to sleeping arrangements.  While some of your families have no issue with what is called a “family bed” (children sleeping in the same bed with their parents while they are young) it will just not work for others.  For those that find it difficult to get a good night of rest with their children in the bed or for parents that simply need their own space, bed time can be a nightmare when your child refuses to go to sleep. The pleading “Snuggle with me mommy” can be hard to refuse.  When it happens, the last thing you want to do is ignore the request for love and positive attention.  Beware, it is very easy to fall into the habit of sleeping in your child’s bed and is one of the more difficult habits to break your child of.  Once your child becomes accustomed to falling asleep with you next to her, she will have a hard time going to bed without you.  

Unless you are okay with this becoming a long term event, I strongly advise parents to not ever fall asleep with your child in bed.  There are authentic needs your child might have (fear, sickness, overwhelmed or sadness) so don’t disregard your child’s desire for connection with your through these means.  However, there are many alternatives to sleeping with your child in those moments where she needs you. 

You could put a chair next to her bed and sing songs, read a book or be silent as she starts to drift off to sleep.  I like to keep a reclining chair in my children’s bedroom so that we can snuggle together without being in her bed.  For a short period of time, you could snuggle with your child in YOUR bed.  Snuggling in mommy or daddy’s bed is a very special treat at our house but also needs to be used with caution. 

Whichever technique you use, it is important that you leave the room before your child falls asleep.  This is important because if you leave the room after she is asleep, she most likely wake in the middle of the night expecting you to be there.  Even if you verbally tell her you plan to leave the room when she falls asleep, she will be looking for you.  In most children this will cause an alarmed feeling.  She may eventually remember that you told her you would leave when she fell asleep but the damage is done.  She is now awake and will remember only the panicked feeling she had about it.  So the next night when you go to put her to bed she will be even more insistent that you stay in her room.  You now have a bad night time cycle.  She wants you to stay with her, you stay until she is asleep, you leave when she falls asleep, she wakes to find you gone and then next night remembers the feeling of you not being there with her, so she wants you to say with her……..

By giving your child extra night time attention before she is asleep without sleeping in her bed  you are meeting her need to connect with you and making her feel safe.

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