Written by: Shani Fowler
We all need a good night’s sleep, but when you have children, for various reasons, the prescribed eight hours of complete rest is often not possible. This is exacerbated when you can’t get your child to sleep in their own bed at night. When your child appears at your bed through the night, you often feel like following the path of least resistance and wearily throw back the duvet, letting your visitor in – you know you’ll not sleep well, but you will at least sleep! This often only serves to make a quickly adopted routine for your child however; many of us are guilty of doing it. So how can we claim back our bed and have a good night’s sleep?
The good news is that we can retrain the kids, but like anything worth doing – it is not easy. Firstly, make sure that the timing is right, don’t try to potty train, or go on holiday or have them adjusting to a child minder, then throw the new bedtime routine at them – this will just put stress on stress and is doomed to fail. When the time is right, when things are on an even keel, you then can make a start. Family therapist Jill Spivack suggests, you start by discussing the new bedtime routine with your child in the afternoon, so by bedtime it isn’t just sprung on them, they have some sort of adjustment knowledge already in their head. She suggests saying things such as “mummies and daddies sleep in their bed and children sleep in their own beds.” She also recommends making your own “sleepy time book”, possibly a stapled together booklet, even if it has stickmen drawn in it (if your artistic talent is anything like mine), so that it can help your little one understand the new sleeping arrangements. Undertake your usual bedtime routine, or establish a bedtime routine if you don’t have one.
Once in bed
Now brace yourself, this next part is where you are likely to give in by saying things like “ok just for five minutes”, or convincing yourself it would be easier because you’ve had a long day. Once you’ve decided to do it, bed sharing has to end in its entirety. Kids coming into the bedroom at midnight or any time after they have been put to bed, have to be walked back to their own bed, tucked in and kissed nighty night! Don’t be tempted to snuggle down with them either! Once back in their beds, go back to your bed. There will most likely be tantrums and screams; you may have to carry your wriggling, crying child back to bed. They will likely get back out of bed where you have to go through the whole thing again, it will leave you wondering if you will ever sleep again. But you will!
Not been in their own bed from the off?
This “regaining your own bed” thing can be worse for those whose children have been starting out in parents bed from the off; in this case you might have to sleep beside them (though not in their bed) in a chair, or put up bed. At first you may have to stay all night long, if you are there one minute then gone when they wake, they WILL come looking for you! Jennifer Waldburger co-creator of The Sleepeasy Solution says, sleeping in your child’s room to start with “pushes the reset button”. After a few nights you can taper this to sitting quietly in a nearby chair, but resist the temptation to talk. From then on, move yourself further away from the child’s bed until eventually you are back to our own room, walking your child back to bed, should he or she follow you in there.
If things didn’t get off to a great start, that’s not unusual! Keep going, encouraging and reaffirming the new rules. If there have been improvements or even better, if they managed to stay in their bed the whole night without trying to sneak into yours, make sure you lavish the praise, telling them what a big boy/girl they are now maybe even let them have a “sleep treat.” The key is being consistent and persistent, as hard as that can be; and don’t be afraid to entice your child back into bed with a promised treat in mind, once it is cracked you will all have good night’s sleep.