Should children sleep with their parents?

Every parent has faced the same situation. A child comes to the parent’s bedroom door and announces that he or she wants to sleep in the parent’s bed. What is the right response?

According to sleep researchers and child psychologists, it is important for children to learn to sleep in their own beds. Dr. Richard Ferber, in Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems writes that “Sleeping alone is an important part of his learning to be able to separate from you without anxiety and to see himself as a separate individual. This process is important to his early psychological development.”

A general rule of thumb appears to be that an occasional night in bed with the parents is OK, but that it is in no one’s interest—the child or the parent’s—to continue the practice on a regular basis. If you are a parent who enjoys or prefers having your child in bed with you—be prepared to examine your motivations. If you otherwise would be alone at night (single parent, spouse travels frequently, etc) you may be using the child to serve your own needs for comfort and security—and inadvertantly be subverting his or her own needs for independence and identity. If a child is brought into bed as a way to avoid confrontation or sexual intimacy with a partner—you need to stop immediately from involving your child in a problem that is not of his making—and solve your problems with your partner in an appropriate forum.

If your child complains he is afraid to sleep by himself—remember to work at solving the problem—addressing the fear issues—and to not give in to his wishes every time. In the long run, every one will benefit.

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