Many parents who are having an awful time encouraging their children to sleep in their own beds. In order to get any rest they just give in and allow the children to sleep in the same bed with them. This is a major problem for the entire family. Many families throughout history have chosen a “family bed.”
In fact, in most cultures around the world today, a “family bed” is the norm. If that is a family’s choice, it can work very well. However, having a “family bed” is not for everyone. It also works well to teach children to sleep in their own beds.
Here are some tips on how to help children sleep in their own beds:
- It does not work well to tell children to sleep in their bed and then relent when they act up. This only teaches them that their persistence will be rewarded with a trip to your bed.
- The best approach is to discover the underlying cause or causes for your child’s behavior. At some level, your child knows why she doesn’t want to sleep in her own bed, even if she isn’t able to articulate what she is feeling. If you ask her outright what she is feeling, you may not get any valuable information.
- A great way of discovering what your child is feeling is to play with her using dolls or action figures to represent members of a family. Have the characters act out several typical family situations: mealtime, going to the park, driving in the car, etc. Enact several of these non-threatening situations, and let your child put words into the figures’ mouths. When you get to bedtime, if your child is hesitant to talk, you can try speaking for the characters. If your child has gotten into the play, she will correct you if you give the characters motivations that are inaccurate from her perspective.
- Another approach is to encourage your child to color or paint while she tells you about what she is creating. Be sure to allow her lots of time to open up and don’t react negatively if she says something you don’t want to hear.
- The things you are most likely to find are: your child has night time fears, i.e. she is afraid of the dark, being alone, closet monsters, etc.; she is jealous of one parent or a sibling; she is afraid of losing your affection if she “grows up”; or some variation of one or more of these.
You will need to take some time for your child’s feelings to change before you can move her into her own bed. When you do, you may need to make the change in several stages. The first few nights, she might sleep on the floor beside your bed. The next move might be right outside your door, then into her own bed. The large stuffed animal or the tape recording of your voice may help ease the transition.