Is It All Right for Your Kids to Sleep in Bed with You?

By Melissa Chapman

mother and son sleeping in bed togetherIf you’re a single Mom and your kids jump in bed with you at night for comfort, according to Dr. Susan Bartell this is a habit you need to break! Getting your child to sleep in their own bed essential to their development.

Sleeping is a critical time for kids to learn self-sufficiency in their lives and co-sleeping interferes with that process,” says Dr. Bartell, a psychologist and the author of Mommy or Daddy: Whose side am I on? (Adams Media). “By learning to sleep on their own kids will not only learn confidence but how to soothe and care for themselves as well.”

Being a single Mom and co-sleeping with kids often go hand-in-hand. When bedtime rolls around, it’s often easier for a single Mom, likely tried from working both in and out of the home all day, to give into her child’s incessant pleading to co-sleep. In fact, in some cases, single Moms who are still getting used to sleeping alone in their beds might even welcome the company of their kids.

“Co-sleeping can often begin on the heels of a divorce, when both the single Mom and her child are in the midst of emotional turmoil, and wanting to snuggle up with your kids is a natural way for both of you to deal with the trauma of the separation,” says Dr. Bartell. “Although letting your child hop into your bed might initially begin as a temporary thing it can quickly become long-term and ultimately hinder the child more than help her.”

Over the course of sleeping, every person goes through different sleep cycles. If a child is in bed with their parent and awakes during a light sleep cycle it’s a parent’s second nature to rub her back and soothe her back to sleep. Unfortunately, in doing so, the child is not learning how to put herself back to sleep and is relying on her parent to do so. As a child gets older if she hasn’t learned to sleep on her own and soothe herself to sleep, her inability to comfort herself will spill over into other aspects of her life.

Co-sleeping is essentially a band-aid, a quick fix for the child; it will not help her resolve her bad feelings or confront the underlying things that are really bothering her. So what’s a parent to do?

Dr. Bartell offers these solutions:

If your child is physically sick, or having a really tough emotional day, it’s all right for the parent to let the child co-sleep with them. However, the parent must reiterate to the child that it is indeed a temporary treat and merely a recognition of the fact that they’re dealing with some tough emotional and/or physical issues.

A parent should never use co-sleeping as an opportunity share one-on-one time with their child. If that’s the case the parent needs to reassess how they can restructure their schedule to create one-on-one time to include an actual physical activity they can share with their child.

Mommy or Daddy: Whose side am I on? by Dr. Susan BartellThe best case scenario is for a parent to sit with their child in their bedroom and create a bedtime ritual. That can mean talking about the day’s events or reading them a story. The bottom line is that as a parent you need to let your child fall asleep on her own, in her own bed and deal with her own feelings.

Ultimately, if you teach your child to sleep through the night by herself you’re giving her the life-long gift of self-confidence and self- sufficiency.

For more information about Dr. Susan Bartell, check out her website at: http://www.drsusanbartell.com. Buy a copy of Mommy or Daddy: Whose side am I on? here.

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