DIAHNA asks:

How do i get my 10 and 6 year old to sleep in their own beds?

I have a 10 and 6 year old. they both sleep with me! i have tried everything to get them to sleep in their own beds. i even told them i didnt care if they slept together in my oldest childs bed. its very imberrasing for me. i love my children very much but they are getting too old to sleep with mommy. i have a queen size bed and i get no sleep because theres no room in my bed. i feel sorry for my kids when i try to put them in their beds. but i know they have to start sleeping in their own beds so i can get some sleep, and so they wont depend on mommy for the rest of their lives. they are very attached to me as it is. especially my six year old. she has to be by myside at all times. my 10 year old has to know everything that goes on in my life. i have no privacy with her. they are my babies but its time they start sleeping in their own beds.  
In Topics: Sleep and rest
> 60 days ago


Answers (1)

lkauffman writes:
Dear Diahna,

Your question is one of the most commonly asked questions we hear from parents. As I'm sure you have heard, there is a great debate that has been waged by parents and experts over the role of the "family bed." In many cultures, young children sleep with their parents in a family bed. Sometimes this is for practical purposes because there are not enough beds for all children; other times, families turn to the family bed because they report that children sleep better.

However, you are operating within a western culture that does not typically support family beds, and you are not getting good sleep. It sounds like you have made up your mind, and I support you in your decision.

To help your children sleep in their own beds, you will need to teach them practical strategies to help them sleep on their own. We have discovered that humans do not know how to fall asleep and stay asleep. Indeed, we need to be taught how to sleep...on our own without sleep aids. Decide when you would like to begin your campaign and sit down with your children to discuss the change. Make certain that you are prepared for some nights and weeks of disrupted sleep before you begin the transition. Explain to your children what the change will be and why you have decided to initiate it. It is important at this time that you are committed to the change, because if you relent, your children will learn that some additional complaining can win them a spot in your bed. Also, it is important to help set expectations about sleep. Let your children know that we don't fall asleep as soon as we close our eyelids, and it is not unusual to wake up a couple of times throughout the night. We soothe ourselves to fall back asleep at those times.

Once you have laid the groundwork, set up a fairly structured bedtime routine. This routine should involved quiet and relaxing activities - a bath, reading together, a back massage, etc. You might consider putting a chair in the their room and read quietly once they are in bed. Reassure them that you will stay until they fall asleep and then you we be just down the hall. Over time, you can move the chair farther from their bed. Some parents use positive reinforcement for sleep transitions. You might purchase a calendar and put up a sticker for each night that they stay in their bed. Once they have a two stickers, they might earn a small reward.

Your children may have fears about monsters and boogie men that keep them awake and night. If so, help your children to develop coping strategies to deal with their anxiety. You can provide them each with a flash light that they can have by their bed, ready to be turned on if they are fearful or scared. They might also like to sleep with a big, stuffed animal.

Finally, you didn't say explicitly, but I get the impression that you are raising your children on your own. Is that right? As you know, it can be very difficult for single parents to set firm boundaries on sleep and other issues. Consider ways that you can maintain the "family hierarchy." It is important for you to be firmly in charge of the household and situated in the parental role (this means that you are not necessarily "friends" in the way that your children know all that is going on with you). This is important because, as much as children think that they want to be in charge or be your friend, they really do rely on a parent to be "in charge." It is "holding" and reassuring to know that there is someone who is in charge. And, the person in charge typically has delineated firm boundaries. This doesn't mean that you can't still be loving with your children. Just decide what you want and expect, set clear expectations and boundaries with reinforcements and consequences.

These approaches will help your children to mature and develop as you hope and provide a little space for you, as well!

Best of luck!

L. Compian, Ph.D.
Counseling Psychologist Expert Panel
> 60 days ago

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