My seven-year-old has been begging not to sleep alone. She really wanted a “sleepover” with someone (someone else in our family, not a friend… I’m not a fan of sleepovers with friends.)
Here’s why I finally said yes: she’s been asking for a long time, and clearly had an unmet emotional need… and at the same time, is fully capable of sleeping alone. I haven’t shared a bed with her in months. She’s disappointed when I say no, but not incapacitated.
The difference with many of my clients is that their children feel like they can’t sleep alone. That’s a very different situation.
The only way to build your child’s confidence, in that situation, is to have them sleep alone. Repeatedly. Until they can do so with confidence.
And that’s probably going to be uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Discomfort is not a problem. Discomfort is the price of growth.
Just like learning to walk, or ride a bike, learning to sleep alone is hard work. It can be really scary to let go of one’s security object and go it alone.
We don’t expect our children to learn to walk, or to ride a bike, without some bumps and bruises. Tears and fears are a natural part of the process, and we expect that. We plan for it. We give our children a cuddle and wait a few minutes until trying again. We don’t give up on them.
The same is true of learning to sleep alone, whatever the age of your child.
Expect some tears and fears. Give your child a cuddle – before lights out – and some words of encouragement and tell them you know them it’s hard. And then give them that little push they need to go sailing off into the world.
Just like learning to walk or ride a bike, learning to sleep alone will ultimately be a huge boost to your child’s confidence, and a source of pride.
Trust your child can do it. And that you parent can learn to tolerate the discomfort of them learning.
And then, once they are fully solid in their skills, you can invite them back for the occasional slumber party. As a special treat. Not because it’s necessary, but because it’s special.
If you are struggling to help your child sleep independently, schedule a free sleep consultation. And if you are struggling to hold boundaries kindly but firmly, schedule a free life coaching consultation for parents consultation. I’ll listen to your story and give you some tips to start your transformation, then let you ask your questions.
Start 2023 on the right foot, with a beautifully well-rested family.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.