How to take back your bed

Many parents complain about sore bodies in the morning after having to share their bed with one, or sometimes more than one little person at night.  Children have the ability, however small, to take over the whole bed – having both parents hanging to the side of the bed just to stay on.  The most common strategy to conquer the bed is the horizontal approach to occupation. No wonder we are in pain when the sun finally rises.

Family beds are not new.  In some cultures it has been done for thousands of years. I agree, it does enhance bonding and give children an extreme sense of safety and security.  Problems arise when you are not able to be there physically to play the role of the human pacifier. Sharing a bed with your child also deprives you and your partner of much needed privacy and worst of all (personally) is the fact that you might be sharing a bed when your newly potty trained girl have a little accident…

Why do we do this to ourselves?  It is because, the little person knows that at 2 am your resistance is at an all time low.  It is much easier to let her just jump into bed with you, than get up and try to get a hysterical child to sleep in her own bed in her own room.  The biggest problem is that when you allow it once, they know that if they persevere in their crying, eventually tiredness will win the battle and the bed will be their prize.  Worst of all, if one is in, how can you deny entry to the next one? It is just not fair…

What are the possible causes of your child’s night time wandering?

  • Night Time Fears: Fear of monsters, spiders, etc. drives children every night to a big person’s bed. Arming your child with a flashlight, a monster deterring spray bottle or a protecting stuffed animal might do the trick.
  • Jealousy: Sometimes jealousy prompts a child to get extra attention at night.  A sibling with special needs, or a newborn might make a child feel deprived and being able to snuggle at night will give much needed comfort.
  • Fear of Growing Up: Some children are afraid of growing up – being small enough to share their parents’ bed reassures them that they will not lose affection and protection.

Some tips to keep your child in their own bed:

  1. Make your child’s room look inviting. Decorate it age appropriately – is she into Barbie or Pooh Bear? If it looks nice, she will want to spend time there.  The more time she spends there, the more comfortable she will feel in that environment – even at night time.
  2. The size of the bed might play a role.  Going directly from a crib to a single bed might be scary for a little one.  Putting up a guard rail might make her feel safer.  Another option is to use a toddler bed as a transition bed.  Toddler beds usually come in fun shapes and that can add to the attractiveness of the room.
  3. A special bedtime routine provides precious time that you and your child spend together giving her the much needed sense of security and bonding with you.  A bedtime routine that is followed every day gives your child a feeling  that things are predictable and safe.
  4. Many children get up at night to go to the bathroom.  Make sure your little one goes to the toilet just before bed time.  If she does get up at night to come to your bed, redirect her to the bathroom, which she might need and make sure she goes to her own bed after that.
  5. Do not lie down.  If you lie down with her until she is asleep, she will assume that you are there for the duration of her sleep. Waking up and finding herself alone, will cause anxiety and tears.
  6. Establish the rule of sleeping in your own bed. If it is a rule, everyone has to adhere to it, even mommy and daddy. Mommies are not allowed to become weak when there is crying and whining. (This is for me the difficult part).  If she comes to your bed, she has to walk back immediately.  Important though:  No child should feel it is a punishment to go to bed.
  7. A mattress next to the bed, might help to reduce tears. She is allowed to sleep in your room, but not in your bed.  It is usually not as comfortable to sleep on the mattress and she might make the decision to move back to her bed on her own.
  8. 15 Minutes snuggle time before bed reassures your child that she is safe and loved.  Reassure her that you are near at all times whilst she is sleeping, this helps her to know she is safe.
  9. Reinforce the fact that sleeping in your own bed is a sign of maturity.  “If you were not such a big girl, we would not think that you can sleep in this bed all by yourself.”
  10. Be patient! Rome was not built in one day – the fact that your child is looking for you at night, means that you are loved and they feel loved by you!

Rest assured, your teenage girl or boy will not want to share their parents’ bed.  There is light at the end of the tunnel!