By: Venchi Balendez
When should kids sleep in their own bed? A question that has a number of diverse answers depending on each parenting style. Usually, children would go from crib to their own bed without any problems, but for some, doing so might be a struggle for both child and even the parents themselves. Although the ideal answer to this is that it depends on each family, still, here are a few things you should about ending co-sleeping and training your kids to sleep alone.
Co-sleeping refers to the common parenting practice wherein kids sleep and share a bed with his parents. It’s a common practice especially for breastfeeding moms and can be practiced for weeks or even years. Although co-sleeping has benefits that include allowing more time spent with the parents, minimizing the risks of SIDS, or even reducing stress, it can also be harmful to your child’s emotional development. This is the reason why it is recommended that parents should start training their kids to sleep in their own beds once they reach 2 to 2 1/2 years old.
It is important for children to learn how to fall asleep on their own.
Most of our kids are used to sleep with their parents beside them. But technically, kids do not really need us at night because they themselves need to rest and sleeping alone is the best way to get that quality rest. Obtaining this skill of sleeping alone is also important as it allows your child to feel safe on his own.
As parents, it is important that we help our kids adjust to sleep on their own by showing gentleness and support. Your kids will feel secure when they know that you are just in the next room ready when they feel scared.
What are the reasons why you should teach your child to sleep alone?
Encouraging your kids to sleep alone at night helps them attain healthy emotional development, makes them confident, and enables them to learn how to calm themselves when they get anxious about falling asleep. It can develop autonomy, making them feel proud of themselves and their ability to sleep alone on their own. Aside from that, it can help them conquer their fears, especially since some kids are afraid of the dark and would imagine creepy creatures, making them feel scared to sleep alone at night.
In addition, teaching your kids to sleep separately at night not only helps your kids to mature, but it is also beneficial for you as parents. Making your kids sleep separately minimize sleep interruption for parents, which prevents stress and exhaustion from not getting enough sleep through the night. Also by doing so, your kids will learn that parents need time to be together without them. This will also help prevent your kids from compromising parental intimacy which can affect your intimate relationship with your spouse over time.
However, if your child does not want to sleep alone, wakes up crying at night, and/or only sleeps when you are beside him, your child is experiencing separation anxiety at night or “night-time separation anxiety.”
To help your kids sleep alone or get over night-time separation anxiety, here are some things you need to consider:
- Help your child understand the changes and why he needs to sleep alone at night, so that he will not feel abandoned. Explaining the changes and the reasons behind the act might make him more cooperative and receptive to the idea of sleeping alone at night.
- Wean your child from your bed gradually. For instance, you may plan to spend some portion of the night on a bedding on the floor of your youngster’s room or lay down with him for a couple of hours in his bed before going back to your own.
- Reward your child every time he sleeps alone. This will encourage him to exert more effort to sleep independently at night.
- Set a regular schedule or routine. It is important to set a specific time each day for each activity, including waking and sleeping time. This will help your child sleep easily at night.
- Use lights to stimulate sleep-wake cycles. Keep the lights off or dim at night, and make sure your child’s room is exposed to natural light as he wakes up.
- Do away with things that can distract your child from sleeping, such as toys. However, “transitional objects” such as his favorite blanket or toy can help him sleep easily. One or two of these objects might be enough to just make him comfortable.
- Make bedtime enjoyable instead of using it as a threat. We often use sleep as a punishment for their bad behaviors, and this is not a good practice. Communicate to your child that sleeping is a healthy and necessary part of life.
- No food at least one hour before bedtime. Avoid foods such as chocolates and sweets before bedtime as these are stimulants. Don’t let them watch TV and computer before bedtime as these can make their brains active making sleep more difficult for them.
For us parents, it might also difficult to let go of our little ones and separate beds from them, especially if we enjoy that special closeness with our kids when sleeping. But in order for our kids to grow emotionally and have more confidence, we should try training them to sleep on their own without making them feel abandoned. In spite of sleep training, we should continuously make them feel that we are always ready to be with them whenever they feel scared.
Venchi Balendez is a registered nurse and mother of three, working as a part-time article writer.