My eight-year-old son still sleeps in our bed

Thursday December 31 2020
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By Kharono Lufafa

Our eight-year-old son has refused to sleep in his own bed. When he was younger, I supported the idea but now that he is eight, I have told my wife to ensure the boy sleeps in his own bed but she doesn’t seem bothered. I moved out of the bedroom because I am really uncomfortable sleeping with a child in the bed. This has caused a lot of tension, then stress in our relationship, not to mention lack of intimacy. I no longer feel needed in my marriage. Do I push harder to change this, or do I just sleep in the spare bedroom until my wife is ready to make changes? Jacob


Dear Jacob,

Bed-sharing and co-sleeping with children and their parents can be a dilemma, especially when it comes to transitioning. The decision to let the child sleep in their own bed and room is dependent on the age of the child and the parenting style of the family and the reasons they advance for doing so. Some parents share a bed with their children because it makes it easier to feed them, cuddle them for attachment purposes, and being alert in case of any sudden change in breathing.

However, the bottom line that new parents need to note is that it can be okay to share a room with your little one especially from zero to 12 months but better still in their own crib. Child training starts right from birth, this means that parents can share a room with their infant but put them in their own crib even after feeding at night as a way of nurturing independence.

It will be difficult for a toddler who has been sharing a bed with parents for long to adjust to the transition of sleeping in their own bed and their own room too. For such parents, it will also take longer for them or one of them as adults to let go of their child to sleep in their own room and bed too.

Therefore, since the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, it is safer to train infants early enough to sleep in their own bed and at least after one year to sleep in their own room to avoid stress between the couple and the child. Children who stay longer in their parent’s beds and room risk suffering from generalised anxiety and low self-esteem because they have not had a chance to develop their internal locus of control.

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Parents of such children are deprived of their own privacy, quality sleep and it causes stress in their marriage. In your case, where an eight-year-old refuses to leave your bed, you need to know that it will take time for him to adjust since this could have caused an entitlement attitude in him.
Use behavioural training by gradually removing parental comfort and replace it with nurturing by telling him bedtime stories before he sleeps and if possible relaxation music too.

Stick to your plans even if it means standing at his door until he sleeps and try not to fall in for one night or minutes in your bed as children learn to manipulate systems, with time the child will learn to adjust and be independent.
Before you even talk to the child, you as adults need to discuss the details of the transition, go through both the advantages and disadvantages of your son sleeping in your room and even your bed too.

Remember, it is you the adults to show the child that you need privacy in your bedroom. Unless it is for another reason with your wife, then you need to listen to her and where possible together visit a child psychologist to help both of you understand one another and together support your son to adjust to the change.

She might be having trouble coping with a past event or accepting that the child is now past the age of sleeping in your bed and room too. When parents agree on a system and not work against each other, the child will be easier to manage. Evelyn Kharono Lufafa,
Counselling psychologist


Readers advice

Make his room special
Janat Nsokwa.
Make your child’s room special. Some children may be apprehensive about spending time alone in their room. Spending fun and special one on one time may help. For example, take him to pick out some new pajamas and bedsheets. Also, try and use his favourite cartoon characters or colours in the room so that they love sleeping there every night.

Find out what he wants
Joyce Muchwa.
I faced the same problem with my son but now he is used to sleeping in his own room. What I noticed was that whenever you would put him in bed and switch off the lights, he would wake up immediately. So, I bought a light that is colourful and somewhat dim that it will not affect his sleep. Since then, he sleeps soundly and only comes to my room in the morning to say hello.

Be the man of the house
Ivan Kayongo.
The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Together, you can come up with a solution and this should be done before your marriage is severely affected.

Dont blame your wife
Flavia Flash. 
Mothers tend to be attached to the children but as a man, take your stand. Your son will be sad for a few days, cry, but he will eventually get used to sleeping in his own bedroom. Do not blame your wife. You are also failing to recognise and take on your position in the home.

Is it an excuse?
Patience Nampa Natie.
I think your wife could be using it as an excuse if she isn’t bothered at all. Tackle the issue as to why she does not want him out of your bed. On the other hand, you could encourage your son to start sleeping in his own bed/room by promising him gifts if he fully spends nights in his bed. Once he realises there is something to gain, he will feel motivated to sleep in his bed.

Teach independence
Jacob Kwesiga Gatasha.
It is not that hard to get an eight year old boy to sleep in his own room. At this age, he should also be taught that as a man, he needs his own room with his own bed and toys. Make his room interesting and lovable and your son will just fall in love with it.
 
Work together
Jessy Mwanga.
I do not understand how two parents can fail to come up with a solution to a problem like this. What happens when you have to make harder decisions in future? Do not allow this to even affect your relationship with your wife in any way. Together, come up with a solution.

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