Co-Sleeping - Not A Good Idea

The debate continues to rage over the idea of children sleeping in bed with their parents. There are, as with all debates, two sides to the issue and in this article we will look at the current concept that says it just isn't a good idea to have your kids sleeping in bed with you.

Healthy Family Means Healthy Boundaries

A healthy family, regardless whether the family is single-parent, blended or intact, generally has healthy boundaries. Separation between parents and children helps to keep the balance of power and space for appropriate intimacy. It allows for a loving and nurturing flow of parental affection to children while providing the benefit of mature adult intimacy for the parents. When the boundaries are crossed or blurred, the marriage can suffer. What often happens is that when there are marital problems and the couple is not meeting each other's needs the fulfillment of these needs is accomplished by becoming excessively attentive to the children. A child is not able to reflect back the mature love and intimacy of an adult relationship and so the marriage suffers.

It Interferes with Normal Relationships

The children likewise suffer because they are placed in the position of having to provide emotional fulfillment to an adult. Children are not capable of reading an adult's needs and filling them when they, themselves are so emotionally immature. The burden is unfair and they end up sacrificing their own developmental needs in order to take on an adult's job. Additionally, they may end up with too much power they can't handle when they are forced into this role by demanding the high level of attention be maintained constantly. Children, in a healthy family unit, learn to appreciate and respect the bonds and boundaries of intimacy that exist between their parents and are then able to develop ways that are age appropriate to gain attention and validation.

The parental bed becomes a divisive issue when children are allowed to sleep there because it deprives the parents of their privacy. When privacy is breached, then intimacy is also lost. That translates to sexual intimacy, something that is very important to the success of a rich and full marriage. When the child is in the bed, the child's needs are the most pressing. The result is that conjugal needs are pushed to the back burner where one member (probably the husband) is frying. Emotional closeness dissipates as the child's needs take precedence.

When Parents Divorce

If the parents are divorced, co-sleeping with a child takes on a different twist. The emotional impact of a divorce shakes a little child, especially when the child is a pre-schooler or early elementary aged. They often become edgy and anxious, subject to bad dreams and fearful of being left alone. One of their parents is gone and they fear losing the other one. They need a lot of reassurance and support. Often a parent will allow the little child to sleep in their bed believing that they are solving the problem by offering parental comfort. This may, in the long run, create a dependence of the child on the parent that is beyond normal and the child may have serious difficulty adjusting to change of any sort.

Using the Child for the Wrong Reasons

A divorcing mother or father can either intentionally or unintentionally seek to calm their own angst by having their child sleep with them. A parent experiences great comfort with the presence of someone they love so much who can't be taken away from them. The warmth of a little body is comforting. Unfortunately, the child is now taking care of the parent's needs which can add to the already heavy burden a child feels during a divorce. If sleeping with a parent of the opposite sex, this can cause confusion, especially if the child is a little girl sleeping with her dad. Eventually, the divorced parent will likely find another mate - then there's the trauma of removing the child from the place he or she has become accustomed to occupying. The jarring is distressing as the child tries to assess whether they are displaced, unwanted, or unnecessary.

Breaking the Habit

If your child comes into your room seeking to cuddle and sleep with you, gently take him back to his room, tuck him in, and softly comfort him. Read a story or offer a favorite cuddly toy. Lay beside him in his bed and offer the comfort of your presence and touch. Promise to stay with the child until he falls asleep, and then return to your own bed. Repeat as necessary. Eventually the child will learn that his bedroom is a safe place and that he can take care of himself - that he's growing up and is okay.