It’s perfectly all right to let a toddler sleep on your bed. But once they hit the pre-school phase, it’s neither comfortable nor healthy.
It’s not easy to get a toddler to sleep in their own bed, especially when they have been sleeping with their parents for quite long. The parental comfort is their cue to fall asleep. So when you take that away, anxiety and fear creeps in.
The good news is, there are a few tactics you can employ to curb the anxiety and motivate them to sleep solo. It will take some time, so you got to be patient. But rest assured that it will work.
But before I discuss the best ways to encourage a child to sleep in their own bed, let’s first address why they are so reluctant to sleep alone.
Understanding the problem is critical to finding a solution that works out for your child.
Children and Their Aversion to Sleeping Alone Explained
Being alone in the room at night can trigger fear and anxiety in children. Their rapidly developing brains have an over-sensitive threat detection mechanism that’s been conditioned to stay alert since the dawn of mankind.
For hundreds and thousands of years, humans had to keep their children close by to protect them from danger. So this custom of letting children sleep in their own bed is relatively new. By nature, kids tend to cling to their parents whenever they sense a threat (e.g a little monster under the bed).
Your presence is your kid’s sleep association. Some sleep associations, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or listening to soft music are healthy. In order to ease them into sleeping in their own beds, you need to harness the power of healthy sleep associations.
In the following section, I am going to go over a few tried and tested tactics that will help your toddlers fall asleep easier on their own-
Best Ways to Get Children to Sleep in Their Own Beds
Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Make this huge transition for your child easy by creating a sleep-friendly, soothing environment for him. Start with a comfortable twin-size bed like these beds specially made for 5-year-olds, a fluffy mattress, pretty bedding, and warm blanket.
Comforting objects like stuffed animals and a small fish bowl will give your kid a sense of security and ease them into peaceful slumber.
If your child is particularly afraid of the dark, adding a soft night light in the room can stave off the fear and anxiety that’s keeping them wide awake in the wee hours.
Develop a Healthy Bedtime Routine
A healthy bedtime routine will help your little one unwind and relax. Some of the calming nighttime rituals include taking a warm shower and reading a storybook. The key to establishing a bedtime routine and making your toddler stick to it is consistency.
If your kid goes to bed at 8, they should get into their jammies and brush their teeth about 45 minutes before hitting the bed. This will leave them with a good 15-30 minutes for reading a book or have a quiet chat with you before they fall asleep.
I figure I don’t need to remind you that no two children are created equal. There’s no rule of thumb to follow when it comes to planning a bedtime routine for a child. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful and work out a routine that works for your child. To make your junior stick to the routine, set a sleep time and wake-up time, and don’t make an exception even on weekends.
Contrary to popular belief, kids love routine. Developing a consistent bedtime routine not only helps children sleep better but can also curb mild to moderate sleep problems.
Try the “Phasing out” Process
Phasing out or fading method has been proven to be highly effective in helping toddlers sleep better alone in their room. It’s a simple process of gradually fading your presence from their room until they don’t struggle to fall asleep anymore.
During the first few days of their transition to sleeping solo, you can lay next to them if they insist on it.
After a few days, sit on a chair right next to their beds and gradually keep moving a chair further and further away until you are out of the door. The number of days required between each step entirely depends on how severe your kid’s anxiety is.
Children, in their own cute and adorable way, can be hella manipulative. For the first few days, expect them to swoop into your bedroom all teary-eyed.
While letting them have their way and crash into your bed might be the easiest way to deal with the situation, it will send them mixed signals. Get up, hold their hands, and take them back to their beds.
Don’t talk much, show frustration, or raise the pitch of your voice. Just silently take them back to their room, cuddle them up a bit, assure them verbally that everything will be fine, and exit the room. Do this over and over again to relay the message that you mean business. If you keep making exceptions, it will just prolong the problem.
Remain Calm and Communicate
Getting a stubborn, anxious toddler to sleep in their own bed is not a cakewalk. Be ready to deal with a lot of crying, begging, and nagging. At this point, your constant verbal reassurance will definitely help your junior overcome his fear of sleeping alone.
If they are rushing back to your room every night, ask what is bothering them and work out a solution together.
If you promise to come back and check on them after an hour, keep your promise. Increase the waiting interval by 10-15 minutes until they successfully fall asleep while waiting for you.
Reinforcing a positive behavior in a child is never easy, considering how sensitive they can be.
By rewarding your toddler for sleeping in their own bed without complaining, they will eventually totally overcome their inhibitions of sleeping alone.
Let them choose their cereal the next morning or allow them to stay away for an extra 15 minutes at night as a reward for their bravery and adherence to discipline.
And while you are at it, don’t forget to praise them verbally as well. Your assurance means a lot to your kid and it helps them stay motivated.