I saw a article on a family of 7 that co-sleep a while back…maybe you saw it too, the post went pretty big. (In case you didn’t, you can read it here (greatideas.people.com)) Maybe it became so popular because of the fact that it was a lot less ‘shocking’ than one might have expected… you see, the truth is, there are a lot of parents out there that have their children sleeping in their beds with them, and they do it by choice. Now, lets be real, this choice can be very limiting for both parent and child – the child becomes dependent to having an adult in the room with them to get a good night’s rest, and, of course, the adult has to sacrifice privacy and comfort among other things (toddlers are notoriously wriggly). For these and many other reasons, co-sleeping is not for everybody… but try telling that to a determined toddler…
It happens before you’ve even really realized it’s happening. You allowed it a couple of times in the past, on the odd occasion when your little one was feeling sick, or had a bad dream, and next thing you know, putting them to bed in their own room has become a bloody nightmare. So – enough’s enough!
Unfortunately, changing a child’s behavior when it comes to their sleeping habits is no easy task. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Much like ripping off a band-aid, there are two schools of thought on which is better – quickly, in one go, just get it over with; or slowly, gently, trying to do it in a way that the ‘patient’ hardly notices. In the end, it comes down to you – you need to decide what you as a parent feel more comfortable with, and which technique suits your parenting style best.
Regardless of how you choose to handle this very tough situation, these tips should help make the transition period a little less painful foe everyone involved. Good luck!
Talk to your child – Explain to your child, in terms that they can understand, exactly what the new plan for bedtime is going to be. Have this discussion during the day, and make sure that your child understands that the conversation is a very serious one. Do not try and negotiate with a toddler in the middle of the night.
Show your child love and understanding and acknowledge their fears – It is possible to acknowledging our child’s fears and validate their feelings while still maintaining the boundaries we have set. Ask your child if there is a favorite teddy or a night light they’d like to have for comfort, and offer an extra warm bedtime cuddle, but stick to your guns.
Be extra affectionate during the day – kids that feel like they are missing Mom (or Dad) during the day are more likely to be clingy and anxious at bedtime. By piling on the love and cuddles during the daytime hours, your little one may feel more secure and feel less of a need to try and sneak into your bed at night.
Offer rewards – Create a sticker chart and make a big deal of filling it up. Let your child choose the stickers (maybe something to do with bedtime or night, or maybe just their favorite character). Agree on a special prize for completing certain goals, maybe a new bedtime teddy, or glow-in-the-dark stickers for their bedroom.
Just put them back in their own bed – Once you’ve started the process, if your child gets out of bed and tries to come into yours, calmly pick them up and take them back to bed. No arguments, no long discussions, just back to bed.
Be quiet, don’t talk but stay in the room until they’re sleeping – This most important thing to keep in mind with this option is that there has to be progress, and there have to be rules. A goodnight story, a kiss, then lights out and no more talking – not one word. Start by sitting next to your little one, then ‘scootch’ further away each night. This tactic takes patience, and definitely belongs in the ‘removing the band-aid slowly’ school of thought.
Wait until the right time – If your child is also starting nursery school (for instance), or has just lost a beloved pet hamster, it is probably not the best time to start this process. Put yourself in your child’s shoes… something like this IS going to be quite stressful (i was about to type traumatic, but then i thought ‘no- that will be too traumatic for the mom’s reading this’ 😉 ) for your child. They need to be in tip-top shape mentally and emotionally to be able to make the move back to their own beds.
Don’t waffle back and forth – There are going to be moments, probably around 1 in the morning, where you want to give up. But once you decide to make the change, you really do have to stick to your guns. Switching back and forth, telling your child you’re being serious about them sleeping in their own bed and then going ahead and letting them back into yours just sends a very confusing message.
As i’m sure you know, with young kids, things are always unpredictable, and we can only do our best, but i do hope these tips help :).
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