Every parent will be all too familiar with late-night visits from their children: you’ve been tapped or poked awake and then your child utters those words, “Mummy, I can’t sleep.” Some parents don’t seem to mind the occasional night-time cuddle there’s no harm giving into your child’s wishes.
However, if you would rather avoid getting your child into the habit of crawling into your bed, then consider the following strategies:
Lose sleep aids
At this age, lots of children have issues falling asleep without the comfort of a stuffed animal, a bedtime story or you. The big problem with this is that if this sleep-aid isn’t available when your child wakes, he may have trouble dozing off again. The solution to this problem is to gently phase out any sleep aids that your child can’t turn to in the middle of the night.
When you put your child to bed, leave his bedroom exactly as it will be in the middle of the night. If you will be turning off the hall light when you go to bed, turn it off then. Also, make sure that you leave the room before your child falls asleep so he doesn’t wake up and wonder why you’re no longer there.
Consistency is key
Develop a plan and stick with it. However, when its 3 am, it’s easy to get worn down by your child’s pleas, no matter how dead-set against ‘co-sleeping’ you are. Even if he manages to worm his way in just once or twice a week he is going to keep trying. So, drag yourself out of bed, escort him back to his room, give him a quick kiss and leave. Be prepared to have to repeat this ritual several times before it sticks!
Problem solve together
Now that your child is old enough to sort out fact from fantasy, irrational fears tend to ease. However, that doesn’t mean that he won’t still fret. Five to eight year olds worry alot. It makes sense then that setting aside time each day to talk about what worries them can help prevent sleep disturbances.
Reward good behaviour
Rewards can be a great way of encouraging a resistant child to comply with the night-time drill. Try giving him a sticker to place on a calendar after every night he sleeps in his own bed. Some parents offer a grand prize if he manages to stay in bed for a certain amount of nights. Try offering a trip to get an ice-cream or to the movies.
Ask for his input
If your child feels that he has an input regarding decisions about family sleep rules then chances are he will be happier obeying them.
Consider sharing your bedroom but not your bed. Inform your child that he is more than welcome to stay providing he camps out on the floor in a sleeping bag. After a few nights, his own soft and snugly bed may seem all the more appealing.