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Question

My daughter has trouble falling asleep at night (age 6 1/2). She is with me 50% of the time since I am divorced from her father. I think its the comfort of me being there with her while she falls asleep. At times, I fall asleep too and just stay in her bed. Apparently, my ex has caught wind of this (I'm sure my daughter Madison told him) and he says this is unhealthy. I put the TV on for her tonight and she fell asleep in about 20 minutes. Please define if this is unhealthy.

Answer

James Crist Replied: This is a common issue, especially in divorced families. Sleeping in the same bed (sometimes called "the family bed" is not always unhealthy. The main problem is that if she relies on you too much for comfort at night, it can keep her from developing her own coping strategies. It can also make it harder for her when she visits her dad, since she may get used to you helping her to fall asleep. I think the best option is to have a routine, e.g. bedtime story and a little snuggle time, but then have her fall asleep by herself. A TV can help, but a small fan, radio, or white noise machine might be better. The light from the TV can interfere with sleep patterns. Check out the websites below for more information.
Posted On 2011-02-14 21:52:18
Rosalind Sedacca Replied: Not clear whether you mean the sleeping with her or the TV is unhealthy. There's nothing wrong with being with your daughter while she falls asleep. The challenge may be that she becomes used to that and has more trouble falling asleep alone. Perhaps that's what her dad is referring to. You can try slowly weaning her of the habit by reducing the time you stay in her bed. You can make the together sleeping an occasional treat. But don't feel guilty about tending to her emotional needs as she transitions beyond the divorce. Is she able to fall asleep when she's with dad? If not, you may suggest he spend a little while with her to start the process before letting her fall asleep on her own. Dialogue with your ex is important to assure smoother co-parenting all around.
Posted On 2011-02-06 20:27:17
Debra Brooks Replied: First let me say that it is understandable that your daughter has a few apprehensions about sleeping alone since your divorce. Many times this fear can manifest itself as nighttime anxiety. But, there are some issues with you sleeping with your child at night. This practice can lead your daughter to feeling less sure of herself and cause her to become overly dependent on you. Your goal as a parent should be to help your daughter start to feel more secure. Talk to your daughter and allow her to tell you how she feels. Discuss her fears (this should not be done at bedtime). Plan a bedtime routine that gives her plenty of time to "wind-down". Try sitting with her for a while and reading a story once she is in bed (make it your "special" time together). A nightlight that she picks out is also a good idea. Above everything, assure her that you will be near when she awakes. This process may take some time, but eventually she should get more comfortable sleeping without you. Hang in there.
Posted On 2011-02-06 17:34:35
Beverly Willett Replied: I'm not a psychologist, but nonetheless not sure there is a right or wrong answer. I also think it depends on how long this has been going on, how long it continues and how long you've been divorced or separated. Divorce has obviously caused a disruption in your daughter's life and this is one way she's showing you that she's vulnerable and feeling the loss. Parents don't realize that children take great comfort in their parents' remaining together. (In extreme cases, such as abuse, studies show it can be better for the children if the parents separate; otherwise, divorce causes problems in the lives of children well into adulthood.) When my ex first left, I experienced a similar situation. My youngest daughter, then 7, wanted to sleep with me every night. She simply needed the comfort and I gave in to that. But I also realized I needed to wean her off as we all needed to begin the process of healing. So I began to tell her "no" on a particular night but say that she could the next night or on the weekend. I made her evening routine in her bed as relaxing as possible, reading to her, rubbing her head, making sure she had a favorite stuffed animal, occasionally putting on some favorite soothing music. Eventually she stopped asking to sleep with me and it was only a very occasionally thing. I'm not a fan of TV in children's rooms; I think kids watch too much TV to begin with so why not trying music instead. My 7-year-old liked some of her old lullaby tapes and occasionally soothing classical music. Best of luck.
Posted On 2011-02-06 08:59:02
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