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Getting a toddler to sleep alone requires quite an effort. If your toddler is refusing to sleep alone and you are not doing your bit to develop the habit of sleeping alone from a young age, then be prepared to deal with his stubbornness and tantrums as he grows up.
Each and every child has a sleep buddy. While some kids may ask for a particular blanket, pillow, or their favourite toy to fall asleep, other children may prefer to have a parent close to them. As cute and lovely this sounds in the initial days, it can get problematic for your kid as he grows up. He might fail to sleep or get cranky in scenarios where you may not be present or if you are travelling somewhere. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to teach your child to sleep alone.
Why Should You Make Children Sleep Alone
When a child is too young, he is extremely attached to his parents, so it may not be wrong for him to want to sleep next to you. However, as he grows, he will have to sleep alone someday. Besides, there are certain reasons why making a child sleep alone has its benefits.
- Right from infancy, parents are always there for their child if he wakes up in the middle of the night in his crib. Holding him and cuddling him tends to make him fall asleep again. But, this is not what you can do when your child will grow up. Hence, he needs to learn to calm down by themselves and not depend on you.
- If parents are around their kid all the time, including when he sleeps, it can make him think that you don’t have any lives and you will be there for him at his beck and call, which is not possible and not even right. This can also get extremely taxing for you later on and even be a problem for the kid.
- Self-esteem and self-worth stem from the fact of feeling independent and confident in oneself. Learning to take care of himself can help a kid shape those tendencies early on in his life.
- As a child grows up, there will be times when he will be alone on school trips, sleepovers, and so on. These events are necessary for your child’s all-round development, and dependency on parents can be a hindrance in that regard.
- While parents might want to sleep with their kids after being away from them for the entire day, it is best if you spend time together at dinner and other activities, keeping sleep as an individual activity.
- Being afraid of the dark, imaginary monsters, or robbers are common problems that make kids want to sleep next to parents to ensure that they are safe. Though children overcome these fears with time, there is nothing wrong with encouraging them to let go of these fears early in life.
- Being around kids who can sleep by themselves when your own kid fails to do so can make the kid feel less worthy and inferior amongst his peers. An early start can help him be a part of his friend’s circle without any problems.
At What Age Should Your Child Sleep Alone
It is important to teach a child to sleep alone at the right age. If you do it to soon, it could cause separation anxiety or a sense of detachment in the kid. If done later, it can get extremely difficult to break that dependency. So, doing it on time is necessary. Once your child is around 2 to 3 years old, it is a good time to try to make him sleep by himself. It might take anywhere from a few months to an entire year before he is able to fall and stay asleep on his own.
Helpful Tips to Make Your Child Sleep Alone
Here are a few tips that can work as a great starting point to get your kid to start sleeping by himself, gradually developing into a lifelong habit.
1. Start Slow
Do not make your child sleep alone all of a sudden. Start slow; set one or two days of the week when he will be sleeping alone, see how he reacts. As he gets into the habit of sleeping alone, you can increase the days eventually. Soon, he will like the idea of bed to himself and will prefer sleeping alone.
2. Create a Ritual
Kids generally face a problem while falling asleep; once they doze off there is nothing to worry about. The presence of a parent allows them to fall asleep quickly than doing so by themselves. Try to set in a ritual of sorts that your kid needs to follow before he sleeps. This can start by brushing the teeth, changing into pyjamas, dimming the lights, saying a goodnight prayer or reading a story and so on. And soon he will get into this habit and will sleep alone.
3. Show Your Presence
If your child is too attached to you, don’t ignore him. Some children are often triggered to feel safe when they sense their parents either by their voice or even by a specific shirt or blanket. You could try doing that by exchanging your blankets or pillows or giving your child your old sweater to hold while he sleeps.
4. Be Firm
Just when you feel that your child is finally learning to sleep alone, he may show up to your room crying, asking you to sleep in his room. Be gentle and guide him back to his room. It may not always be possible but make sure you don’t sleep in his room. If necessary, stand by the door of his room for a few minutes till he falls asleep.
5. Encourage and Celebrate
When your child does end up sleeping a night successfully by himself, do let him know you are proud of him. Give him a celebratory snack or a breakfast treat. This can provide an incentive for doing it again until it becomes a habit. You can also tell him that he is brave and he will sleep alone again feeling proud of himself.
6. Keep Distractions Away
The presence of electronic devices can make sleeping a difficult task than it already is. Make sure you put a curfew on the time limit for playing games on the phone or watching television. Also, don’t keep any gadgets or electronic devices in your child’s bedroom.
7. Avoid Using Sleep As a Threat
Some parents might use sleep as a way of punishing their child when he has done something wrong. This forms a bad relationship with the concept of sleep and can cause other issues like to crop up early in life.
8. Sleep Separately in the Same Room
If things are too difficult at the start, you can opt to sleep on the floor on a separate mattress instead of the same bed. That physical separation can break the first barrier and make things easier later on.
Once you know how to make your child sleep in his own bed, the later progress is pretty much a cakewalk. Sleeping alone does not give him the confidence but it will help him to become strong and independent in future too. So, develop this habit in your child soon.