All through history, many families have been known to use a ‘family bed.’ In fact, even in current times, most cultures around the world use a family bed – it’s just the norm for them. If this is your family’s choice, it can work really well. However, sleeping in a family bed isn’t something everyone feels comfortable with. In such a case, getting your kid to sleep in his own bed is highly recommended.
Yes, there are things you can go to get the little monster who has recently taken over your bed to untrain and sleep in his own bed. But there’s bad news: it’s not going to be easy. This is life – and life for you is not an episode of Supernanny. There’s no way that your family’s sleep issues will get resolved in a day.
Getting your child to move to his own bed is going to be a tough call, but as long as you remain consistent, things are definitely going to work out. Here are a few tips on how you can help your child sleep alone in his bed:
7 Find Out the Cause
To get things started, it is extremely important for you to find out the underlying causes for your child’s need to sleep with you. At some level, there’s a good chance your child knows why he doesn’t want to sleep alone in his bed even if he has trouble articulating his feelings. Don’t ask him outright about his feelings as he may not be able to provide you with any valuable information in this regard anyway.
The best means of discovering your child’s feelings is to play with him using action figures (or dolls if you have a girl) to represent members of a family. Using the characters, act out different typical family situations such as going to the park, having a meal and driving in the car etc. Continue enacting a few of these non-threatening situations and allow your child to put words into the figures’ mouths.
When you get to bedtime, see if your child is hesitant to talk about things. If yes, try speaking for the characters yourself. As long as your child has gotten into the play, he will correct you if you give the characters motivations that he believes are inaccurate from his perspective.
Think things through
It’s also recommended for you to think about any fears or anxieties that your child may have at bedtime. There are many different reasons why your child is not comfortable in their own bed and it can be hard, when confronted with an upset child, to figure out what's going on instead of just letting them sleep in bed with you. Try exploring common issues like monsters under the bed, sibling rivalry or even sounds that may disturb them at night.
6 Get Rid of Distractions
In order to create an environment that is conducive to sleep in your child’s room, remove computers, televisions and all other electronic devices from there. The thing with electronic devices is that the stimulation associated with playing video games or watching TV and the light from the TV screen and computer makes it just about impossible for kids to fall asleep.
For this reason, it is necessary for you to remove them from your child’s room to get him to sleep there. However, make sure that you place a dim light (such as a night light) in there so that it doesn’t get too dark. Next, it’s vital for you to start the wind-down process early in the evening. You can’t expect a toddler who has been racing around the apartment to suddenly switch gears and decompress the moment you decide it’s time for him to go to sleep.
The last few hours before going to bed need to be very calm and quiet so that your child can wind down through the evening. Giving him time to relax and settle down will go a long way in helping him stay much calmer at bedtime – and that is just what you need to help him sleep in his own bed.
Make sure that you minimize your presence
It’s also necessary for you to minimize your presence in your angel’s room so that he doesn’t remain dependent on parental presence to fall asleep. Even if you stay in his room, make sure that you don’t lie in his bed or interact with him so as to reduce his dependence on you.
5 Empower Your Child
In case your child is suffering from certain night time fears, it’s highly recommended for you to give him tools that empower him to overcome his fears. For instance, you could consider giving him a flashlight to play with to help overcome his fear of the dark. You can even get him to play with his flashlight during the day in a darkened room so as to get him used to the darkness.
If your child is afraid of monsters lurking under his bed or in the closet, give him a spray bottle filled with ‘monster spray’ that he can shoot the monsters with in case they ‘come out’. To help your child deal with feelings of loneliness or if he begins feeling afraid at night, record a tape of his favorite stories and songs so he can turn them on at night if the need be. If you want, you can even record your voice for this purpose.
Another option that you can use in order to empower your child at night is to give him a stuffed animal as big as he is to cuddle up and sleep with – ask him to choose which cuddle buddy he wants to sleep with. Believe it or not, but if your child sleeps with you only due to his nighttime fears, then there’s a good chance that he will move to his own bed when you give him the tools he needs to cope with his fears.
A sense of security is what your child needs
Your absence or the mere thought of a monster lurking under the bed is enough to leave your child wide-eyed through the night. Calm down his fears with comforting objects – another presence in the room that can reassure your child will help a great deal in getting him to sleep alone.
4 Take Steps to End Sibling Rivalry
If your child wants to sleep with you out of sibling rivalry, then it’s necessary for you to evaluate the situation and figure out if he really does have reasons to be jealous. In case your child has a younger sibling who gets the most of your attention during the day, there’s a good chance that he may feel the only time he ‘gets’ you is at night when everyone’s asleep.
In order to ward off his feelings of jealousy, make sure that you pay special attention to him during the day even when he is not asking for it. You may even find your child revealing that he’s afraid of losing your affection when he grows up. In such a case, it’s best for you to take note of what you’re communicating with your words and actions to him regarding growing up.
You may unknowingly be making him believe that you want him to stay a baby – that you don’t want him to grow up. In such a case, try to work out the different ways in which you can help him change his feelings by the ways in which you communicate with him. You need to make your child believe that growing up in no way means that you’ll stop being affectionate towards him.
Bring about a change
You will have to put in a bit of energy in changing your child’s feelings about growing up before you can get him to sleep alone in his bed. This particular change will have to be brought about in several stages. For the first few nights, allow him to sleep on the floor beside your bed. In the next step, get him to sleep right outside your door and then finally move him to his room.
3 A Cozy Bed is Much-needed
Every single child out there goes through normal sleep cycles in which he wakes just slightly and then settles into deep sleep again. Here, it’s necessary for you to make sure that discomfort doesn’t wake your child during those periods of slight waking.
Although your child will be able to sleep peacefully through the noise from the TV when he’s in a deep sleep, there’s a good chance that he’ll wake up from it when he gets to a more shallow part of his sleep cycle. For this reason, it’s highly recommended for you to get a white noise machine for your child’s room.
Also, make sure that his room is dark and not overly lit. Blackout curtains are the best option for this purpose and will particularly come in handy during the summers when your baby will probably go to sleep while it’s still light out. Your child also needs to be warm during the night. In case he doesn’t want to cover himself, make sure that he sleeps in a pair of warm pjs with feet.
Give him a bedtime snack
Kids at times need a bedtime snack in order to pull through the night. This particularly holds true for kids who are going through growth spurts. The best options for you in this regard are warm milk, a piece of toast, a slice of turkey, something predictable, calm, not overly interesting and without sugar. Get your little one to finish off his snack at a table in his room while you read a bedtime story. Once done, brush his teeth and put him to bed.
2 Sit on His Bed Until He Falls Asleep
This particularly holds true for parents who are having a hard time with a child who doesn’t fall asleep without their presence. If this is the case, then it’s best for you to withdraw yourself from his room gradually at bedtime. Continue sitting on his bed for a while and then switch to sitting in a chair a few feet away from his bed after a few days. Over the course of a few days more, move the chair closer to the doorway of your child’s room and then finally move it out into the hallway.
Also, make sure that you avoid talking to him as he tries to go to sleep. Just bore him into slumber – refrain from stimulating him. It’s common for parents to put their child to bed and tell him that they’ll be back in a while to check on him. If this is what you do, make sure that you keep your promise, but while you’re at it, try to wait for successively longer intervals of time. In an ideal situation, your child is going to fall asleep during one of these ‘longer’ intervals.
Experts suggest that parents should start with a 5-to 10-minute waiting period. You will probably find her awake if you return in less than 5 minutes. However, if you wait too long, your little one might become agitated and stressed, thereby worsening the situation at hand.
In case your child slips into your bed in the middle of the night, it’s vital for you to accompany him right back to his room without much interaction. Be firm, be consistent.
1 Good Behavior Should be Rewarded
After a good night, it’s highly recommended that you reward your little one by letting him choose his favorite cereal for breakfast or pick out what he wants to wear the next day as a means of encouraging him to sleep alone in his bed. This step is going to help your child associate the behavior with the reward, thereby encouraging him to continue to sleep on his own in his room.
While you’re at it, it’s also necessary for you to ignore all sorts of undesirable behavior by your child, including crying. To get your child used to sleeping alone, it’s best for you to start early with his training – training a toddler to sleep alone in his crib is much easier than training an older child.
When your child is in a crib, it won’t be possible for him to get out of bed and look for you. On the other hand, if your child knows that he can come visit you at any time of the night, that’s usually when problems are going to start occurring. In the latter case, getting him to sleep alone is going to be much harder.
Use positive language
It’s also important for you to take on an ‘encouraging’ approach towards your child to make the switch easier for him. Say something along the lines of. “Hey you’re three! Three-year-olds get to sleep by themselves in their very own beds! Isn’t that great?” Give your communication a positive spin so that your little one may be encouraged to switch to his bed.