A surprisingly large number of parents allow their children to co-sleep with them occasionally, and some even do it every night.
However, continuous co-sleeping can have a negative impact on a person’s functioning – both on parents and children.
The Problems Connected to Co-Sleeping Habit
Often, children who have co-sleeping habits are less self-reliant and have lower self-esteem. Why? Because they rely on external mechanisms to manage their stresses instead of developing healthy emotional self-regulation and internal control. Because they simply don’t know how to be alone, these children typically experience greater dependency on others, low energy, memory loss, obesity, anxiety, and depression.
Of course, parents are not immune to problems created by co-sleeping habits. Chronic sleep deprivation can frazzle your judgment, cloud your thinking ability, drain your patience, diminish your happiness, and even slow your reaction time. Plus, a loss of privacy and intimacy may lead to an increase of marital stress.
Consider your circumstances for a moment and ask yourself:
- Is there truly enough space for all of us in the bed?
- Does our child wake up more or less frequently?
- Is my sleep often disturbed during the night?
- Do we all feel well rested in the morning? Or are any of us sleepy during the day?
If your honest and objective examination leads you to conclude there is a problem, you may want to consider breaking your family’s co-sleeping habits. How?
How to Help You and Your Child Break the Co-Sleeping Habit
- Have a plan: Not only do you have to know exactly how you’ll proceed, but all caregivers in the family have to agree and work together. You’re taking a step that will probably make your child upset, so expect and be prepared for resistance.
- Understand the emotional connection: You must recognize that your child’s dependency, anxiety, and low self-esteem are related to a lack of confidence to sleep alone at night. Changing the sleeping arrangement will probably cause a lot of scary feelings for your child. Allow them to unload those feelings to build their confidence, guiding them through it with love.
- Tell your child about the change: Talk openly about how important it is that children can sleep independently as they grow older. Emphasize your own need for improved sleep and time together by yourselves. And assure your child that you will be there for them and help them to feel safe in their own bed.
- Make their room special: Take your child out and spend some fun time shopping for their room and bed. Pick out new pajamas, new sheets, or a new stuffed animal that can serve as a transitional object to make the moment of being more grown up something special.
- Create a routine to make the transition: Retrain your child by gradually removing your presence at bedtime. At first, put an air mattress in their room for a few days and stay with them, but don’t allow bed-sharing. They need to sleep in their bed, while you sleep on the mattress. Then, remove the mattress but stay with them in the room until they fall asleep each night. Eventually, put on a soothing tape to help them fall asleep and leave the room. Give them lots of attention and love before bedtime, and in the mornings, praise their progress.
- Stay consistent: Being inconsistent is the biggest reason why so many parents fail to make this transition work. You cannot waver during the process of establishing a new sleeping arrangement. Sporadic reinforcement only encourages unwanted behavior. With consistent limits, most children will remain in their beds at night within 1-2 months.
Above all, you must recognize the severity of the issue and fully commit to making a change. But if you simply cannot break the co-sleeping pattern, seek out professional help.