I think that as parents we should find the sleeping arrangement that works best for our family. There’s no right or wrong, and whether you co-sleep or have your child in their own room, (or make any other parenting choice for that matter!) you can do Hand in Hand parenting in the way that works for your family.
We have been a co-sleeping family and also had phases when my daughter slept in her own room because she chose to. Now she sleeps in a bed next to ours in our room. It just seemed to work out that way. She’s been sleeping in her own bed since she was 18 months old. She actually embraced having her own bed and was happy falling asleep in there until February this year.
One night before she had to go to the doctor for a blood test she got really clingy and wanted to fall asleep in my bed. Ever since then she’s fallen asleep in my bed. I’d be totally happy with her falling asleep cuddled up next to me, except for the fact that I know it’s because she’s still got some feelings (perhaps about the blood test, perhaps about earlier hurts from being a baby that got triggered when she went to the doctor etc.)
So a few weeks ago I wrote this blog post about how I staylistened to my daughter’s feelings to help her through the fears, and get comfortable falling asleep alone. But, she was still falling asleep in my bed! I still hadn’t got her comfortable to fall asleep in her own bed.
The funny thing is my daughter will fall asleep in her own bed, but only if my husband puts her to bed. This kind of inconsistency, is a sure sign that she is trying to ‘tell’ me about these feelings, because I am the parent that uses the Hand in Hand parenting tools the most to build emotional safety (as I talked about in this post here.)
One of my issues is that my daughter is a night owl, and likes to go to bed around 9.30 ish. This has been her natural rhythm for her entire life so far, and my attempts to shift her sleep pattern never worked. I also like to go to bed at this time, and I’m often pretty exhausted by then, so it’s been a struggle to work on this emotional project consistently.
A few nights ago I got some listening time, and I ended up actually asking my listening partner for advice! This is not really what we usually do in listening time, but as my listening partner is also a Hand in Hand parenting instructor I was looking for a fresh perspective. Even though I’m a Hand in Hand instructor, it’s often my own parenting issues that are the most challenging, because my own emotions exhaustion, tiredness etc, often get in the way.
My listening partner suggested that I get into bed with my daughter, and then slowly leave her there, or that I could set a limit, and gentle move her into her own bed while staylistening if necessary. Well it kind of turned out that way!
When I finished my listening time my daughter was in her own bed, just about to fall asleep, but when she was me she immediately wanted to come into her own bed. I was feeling energised from my listening time, and it had also helped to talk with my partner and get new ideas.
So I immediately moved towards the gap between our beds and said, ‘’I’m the door of the bed, and I’m staying shut!’’ Then she started trying to get by either side of me, and wrestled to climb over me.
I let her jump into my bed, and then acted all playfully exasperated that she had climbed over. Then I told her ‘’I’m the door, and I’m coming to put you back.’’ Being playful meant it didn’t seem so ‘forceful’ to physically move her into her own bed. I playfully picked her up and put her in her bed, and then I ‘shut’ the door again. We repeated this a few times as she wrestled and laughed. At one point she ran around the beds instead to avoid the door, which really made her laugh.
Then she said she was tired, and I asked if she could get into her own bed, and I’d cuddle her for a bit. She agreed straight away and fell asleep quickly and easily. The next day she woke up in a great mood even though she’d fallen asleep later than usual.
Now, for some parents, myself included, we can often feel a little strange, about enforcing a separation from our child. We can worry that this may give our child the wrong message, that we are not available for closeness.
But it’s actually the opposite. By noticing those moments when our child is clingy, we can actually become closer together by playing with the idea of distance. I felt a lot more closely connected to my daughter, when we wrestling and laughing together, than I do when she’s clinging to me, taking ages to fall asleep because she’s still tense because there are feelings she hasn’t released that get in the way of her being able to let go and fall asleep.
So if your child is taking a long time to fall asleep at night, or is showing signs of being tense or disconnected, then try having some fun getting them to sleep in their own bed.
Are you struggling with parenting and looking for a fresh perspective? I have a Parenting By Connection Starter Class beginning next Wednesday at 8pm Central European TIme, (7pm UK Time, 11am Pacific time).