Parenting Advice Column
|Subject: When will child leave the family bed?
Very nice site.
I enjoyed your article on reasons to sleep in the same bed with your child. I agree with everything, but my question is - at what age do you expect them to move into their own rooms? My boy is five and a half now and while I put him to bed in his own room (next to mine) he shows up every night at about 1 AM, crawls into bed and stays there 'til morning. I have no problem getting him to fall asleep in his room and he goes to sleep happily. This has been going on for a long while now. What do you think I should do?
Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad to hear about another family sharing the nighttime hours.
There is no easy way to predict when a child will be ready to sleep alone through the night. Some children leave sooner, some later. In some countries, parents and children co-sleep until the child is a teenager or young adult. "Only" children tend to stay later than those who can share a room with a sibling.
In my article on learning disabilities, I compare a child's development with that of a rose. We wouldn't try to get a rose to bloom before it's ready - we somehow know that it would only cause harm. We trust flowers to mature on their own schedule, yet in our society, we're led to believe that a child should reach each "milestone" when we want them to, when our relatives think they should, or when our friend's children do so. We find it difficult to trust children to grow at their own natural rate. I wonder why this has come about, that we trust flowers more than we trust children!
I think we should be glad that your son knows what he needs, glad that he trusts your love enough to feel welcome with you for part of the night. The best way to help a child to development at his optimum rate is to meet his needs now so he can then be ready to move on to the next stage. Child development is rarely at a steady rate; there will always be steep rises, plateaus, and in stressful times, even regression to an earlier stage. Any attempt to compel a child to mature more quickly than he can will inevitably cause frustration and parent-child conflict.
I highly recommend The Family Bed: An Age Old Concept in Child Rearing by Tine Thevenin - a very enlightening and reassuring book. See also the articles on cosleeping on our website.
I'll close with a bit of wisdom I've gained by being a parent of child who is now a young adult. Sooner than you expect, you will look back and really miss the times when you cuddled with him through the night. Childhood goes by much too quickly when we look at it from a later perspective. Enjoy these cozy times!
My gut feelings tell me you are right. Now I have official "back-up" :-)