In the comment thread of The Family Bed, Christianne referred to a link to a New York Times article about ways to solve the problem of children wanting to sleep in their parents’ bed. I just read the three-page article and I am aghast.
1) Child sleep specialists and consultants, and sleep centers?
2) And these professionals suggest solutions like giving the child a bear as a substitute for mommy?
2) Giving a little girl a princess bed or a little boy an airplane bed to entice them to stay in their own beds?
Unbelievable!! Even if we follow the logical order of things… look at it this way: inside the womb, a child is tied to his mother through the umbilical cord. The tie is physical and emotional. After birth, doesn’t it follow that the separation from the mother should be gradual and in stages? Doesn’t it follow that the child will naturally seek the warm and safe comfort that he had known for nine months? Does it make sense to suddenly disrupt the child’s psyche by insisting he has to stay alone in his bed in a separate room? How long the gradual process of getting a child ready for the separation will differ from one child to another.
The funny thing is that most parents treat the situation as a problem because it DISRUPTS their own sleep. Well, shucks, children are distractions — that’s a fact. That doesn’t mean they’re bad or maladjusted. We can’t place our kids in one corner and expect them to stay there until it’s convenient for us to get them and spend time with them.
I see it this way. Children’s instinct to seek their parents’ bed is part of an emotional need — the physical presence of the parents is reassuring to them. Humans have an innate fear of the dark for some reason. You put a child in a room full of inanimate objects and not one of them will provide that reassurance if he wakes up in the middle of the night.
Children have tactile needs. A parent’s hug or cuddling is NOT a bad thing. I don’t know why a lot of Westerners have this aversion for showing emotions to their children. A macho thing, perhaps? They think that by kissing, hugging and cuddling their kids, the little ones will turn out to be sissies? Really, now!
Children will stay in their beds in their own rooms when they are emotionally prepared for a certain amount of independence from their parents. They will not wake up, walk into their parents’ room and climb into bed with them in the middle of the night when they are ready for the physical separation. The solution really is to prepare them to become ready. Why rush them?
Seems to me that it is the parents who need to get re-oriented to set them straight about their children’s needs.