You love your little boy or girl. You want them to be happy. You may understand why they don’t want to sleep in their own bed. At the same time, you need your sleep. If your child has made a habit of sleeping in your bed, you may need help. Habits are hard to break. You can learn strategies and skills for you and for your child.
Children can feel proud of sleeping in their own beds. On the other hand, children get a sense of comfort and security by coming to your bed. When forced out of the parental bed, your child can feel abandoned and afraid. These tips, and guidance from Dr. Geizhals can help you make the change smoothly.
Gradually introduce the transition
If you introduce the transition gradually, your child has time to get used to being away from Mom and Dad. Small, gradual changes are easier to assimilate than big, sudden changes.
Your starting point is wherever your child is sleeping now. Then, gradually, move him just a bit in the direction of his room. For instance:
- If your child is used to sleeping right next to you in bed, first move him to the foot of your bed.
- Then to the floor next to your bed.
- Next, place him in a sleeping bag or small mattress in the hallway.
- Then, move the sleeping bag to his bedroom floor.
- Finally, gently place him in his own bed.
This process can take several weeks. During this period, you will need to stay on message and make the process fun.
Often, parents confuse their child with mixed messages. One night, they insist their child remain in her own bed, and the next night they let her sleep with mommy and daddy “just this once.”
Your child may be sleeping in your bed, seeking a sense of security and safety from being near her parents. By not imposing firm rules, you are adding to the sense of insecurity – and making it harder for your child to sleep in her own bed.
You can make the transition easier by following a routine. Read her a bedtime story. Tuck her in. Children need to know their parents are still there for them, even if they are not in the same room.
Make it fun
Many children are simply not used to lying alone in a dark room, waiting to fall asleep. There are a number of diversions that can make sleeping alone easier.
If your child is afraid, it is important not to delegitimize or ridicule him. Get your child to explain his fears to you and think of creative ways to distract him. Susan Stiffelman recommends creating a bottle of “Monster Spray” with a label that says “makes monsters go away in seconds.”
If your child is very fearful and won’t stop crying, write a story together about his feelings. Include details about what is scaring him. Read the story every night to reassure him that he is safe. If he calls out from his room, make sure he knows you can still hear him.
Try playing relaxing music or putting up glow-in-the-dark stars.
Give your child a surprise in bed, like a special pillow.
A tried and trusted way to encourage your child is to use a sticker chart. Add a sticker every night he or she sleeps without you.
Give your child something from mommy or daddy to sleep with, such as an article of clothing. Show him how it smells just like you.
Getting to your goal
The hardest part for your child can be losing the feeling of closeness. There are many ways to maintain closeness from the distance of your own bed. Blow your child kisses as you leave the room. Call out goodnight from your room. With kindness, gentle firmness, and some fun, your child can learn to sleep soundly in his own bed.
At her practice, Dr. Geizhals helps her patients by using a gradual behavioral technique, where the child sleeps gradually further away from the parents. The results can be life changing, with an improved child-parent relationship. Your child can sleep in her own bed without trauma, while you enjoy privacy, intimacy, and a good night’s sleep.
Dr. Judith Geizhals is a child psychologist in Great Neck and New York City with over 25 years experience specializing in the parent-child bond. You can contact her today by phone or by filling in this form.Please share this post!