Sleep issues. They are probably one of the most challenging parts of parenting. Not only is each child different, but their patterns can also change unexpectedly and unpredictably, leaving us sleep-deprived as well as frustrated and confused. There are many, many books out there providing suggestions on how to get your child to sleep – Co-Sleeping, Crying It Out, Not Crying It Out, Attachment Parenting, Hiding In the Bathroom With a Glass of Wine… oh wait, that was just my strategy. I’m not here to give advice on that. What I am here to talk about is the importance of helping a child learn how to put herself to sleep.
Obviously this is not a skill a child is born with, nor should it be. An important part of infancy is for the baby to feel comforted and supported while going to sleep. But as children get older, they should be encouraged to fall asleep on their own, in their own bed.
Learning to fall asleep on your own is an important milestone. Think about what it entails: you have to have the awareness that you are tired, the ability to self-soothe, the comfort and reassurance of knowing that nothing is going to harm you while you are sleeping, (being asleep can feel very vulnerable to some), and the independence to do this by yourself. On the flip side, if a child is not able to do this by his or her self, this implies that they don’t have much self-awareness, they do not feel safe when falling asleep, and they are struggling with independence.
I know many well-intended parents lay with their child in bed (or on their floor) until the child falls asleep. Or they bring the child into their own bed to help them fall asleep. And while these parents mean well, and I know there often seems to be no other way, especially at 3am- this is setting their children up for a potentially long road of bad sleep habits.
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(This post originally published on San Francisco Mom’s Blog on November 8, 2016)
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