It can be hard when trying to soothe your child to go to sleep, and giving in to co-sleeping with them. Relationships expert, Karen Phillip shares her tips on how to create a regular bedtime routine for your kids how to get them sleeping in their own bed.
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Have a set bedtime routine for kids. When very little, up to about six to twelve months, a feed, bottle, cuddle, and then into the cot. When they are a little older a drink of milk perhaps, clean their teeth, toilet, and a story then into bed. This becomes their signal so they know it’s time for bed. So prepare your own routine and signal. The one that worked well in our house, regardless of time, was ‘teeth, toilet, bed’. When the children heard this, they knew that when they did this, Mum would go into their room for a cuddle and a story before the last lights out. The children had turns in choosing the story. I would sit and read before the last tuck in, cuddle, love you and then leave the room. This became our bed time Anchor. My sons shared a room, and my daughter had her room. She would come into the younger boys’ room for the story until a little older when she was permitted to stay up reading for a little while in bed, then I would go in, maybe read a little for her before the routine of covering her up, cuddle, love you, and then exit the room.
Obviously, it is not wise to play actively with any child prior to bedtime as you need at least half an hour before bed to have them quiet down and settle. So make sure at least half an hour prior to bed the children are playing quietly, reading, watching a show, talking, or something quiet for them to settle down. That means no playing at bedtime as this only revs them up making it harder and longer to have them settle. No computer games thirty minutes prior to bed as their brains remain active. Any show they watch should be a bit quiet also.
Just use the routine you choose to have as their Anchored bed time routine and it will work regardless of anything else.
Depending on their age, you discuss the new rules for bedtime. You ensure they have had their small drink, a story, cuddle, toilet, then they go to bed for the night. If they get up and come out, simply take them back to bed another cuddle, then leave the room. If you want to leave a small drink bottle next to their bed in case of thirst fine, but there is no reason for them to keep getting up. They should use the toilet just before bed so saying they need to go would be an excuse. If you are concerned, then perhaps for a night or two allow another toilet stop, however, remember to tell them that this will simply not continue as they are old enough and clever enough to empty their bladder and sleep. Listen for how much urine is passed to understand if it is a needed trip to the toilet or an excuse to just get up again.
Children will only continue a behaviour if they get something out if it that they want. If they get nothing they want, if it’s no advantage to them, they stop.
Should My Child Ever Sleep With Us?
I have had many couples asking what age a child should be sleeping in their own bed, I tell them, ‘your child should be sleeping in their own bed right from the start’. Believe it or not I have had many parents ready for divorce because, usually Dad, is very unhappy with the sleeping situation. One couple still had their thirteen-year-old son sleeping in their bed, Mum was happy with this. If children’s services heard this I would presume the child would not only be removed from their bed but perhaps also from their care.
So what age should you move them if you like them sleeping with you. Now! You as a parent need to be encouraging independence in your child, independence for their self-soothing as well. If your child will not sleep without you in the bed, this is not a good situation for anyone. While some Mums have expressed their delight with this arrangement particularly if Dad is away or no longer around, then who perhaps has the separation issues, the child or you? For the emotional health of the child and the other parent it seems, a child needs to sleep independently in their own bed, by themselves. There may be the odd time to have them in; however, this is very much the odd time only as they should be informed.
Some Mums have said in a session with Dad, that the child will sleep in their bed with them until the child is ready to move into their own bed. So if the child is three or four years I ask when that will be? When they are seven, what about ten or maybe fifteen? Mum couldn’t answer; she is enjoying the closeness and not really thinking about the dad. It is quite distressing to hear the dad say they are over trying to make love to their wife while their two or four or six year-old child is next to them apparently asleep. This should never happen, however, it does, and too often I’m afraid. It really is never acceptable for a child to witness their parents having sex.
The parents’ bedroom, and mum and dad’s bed, are their only sanctity usually. Perhaps it should be kept for them alone. If you wish to climb into your child’s bed for a cuddle at times fine. If your child simply pops in at 6 a.m. for a quick cuddle before getting up, especially if it is a cold winter morning, no problem, this can be a wonderful thing for you all. Put it simply the child should be in their area of an evening and the parents in their area, for many obvious reasons.
And I will add, having your child in bed with you to assist keeping Dad at bay is not an acceptable reason. Consider either speaking to dad or through a counsellor, to remedy any problems you may have in regard to this situation. Never use your child for your own anxieties, insecurities, or as a form of contraception. Attend to these issues independently by yourself as this is sometimes the reason Mum has their child in bed with them for years.