When a child gets to be about 7-years-old, they should be able to sleep on their own instead of with their parents. If this is not the case for your child, here are some tips.
How do I handle my 7-year-old who still sleeps with me and my spouse? Be loving, but be firm. Set clear boundaries for your child. They may be still sleeping with you because you have not set clear enough boundaries. Along with setting clear boundaries, you have to also keep those boundaries. There is also a possibility of something going on emotionally with your child. If you set boundaries and they can’t seem to keep them because they are scared, there may be something else going on.
There are many different reasons that a child is still sleeping with their parents. Whether it’s because they have separation issues or they’ve not had clear boundaries set, there are ways you can handle their habit of sleeping with you.
Set Clear Boundaries!
Setting clear boundaries creates structure and stability for your child. If you don’t usually set boundaries when it comes to your child sleeping with you, then you probably don’t set them in other areas.
It is unhealthy to live without boundaries. If you don’t set boundaries, now is the time to start. Here are some steps you can take to set clear boundaries that will help stop your 7-year-old from seeking refuge under your covers.
1. Recognize the Problem!
You can’t begin to set boundaries for your child if you can’t see the need for boundaries. If you are beginning to get less and less sleep, and you are becoming unable to function, there’s probably an issue.
If you find yourself grumpy and angry at your child (who really won’t understand why) than something needs to change. You have to recognize that change is necessary and being willing to follow through with making that change happen.
Once you discover what makes you uncomfortable, it’s time to take action.
2. Devise a Plan of Action
What are you okay with? What aren’t you okay with? Should you allow your child to sleep on the floor? Should you ban the room all together? What are you going to do?
Before you even begin to set boundaries, you need to know what boundaries you are going to set. Decide a plan of action and then follow through. Make sure, of course, that your spouse agrees with your plan and that both are comfortable with the plan.
We haven’t as yet discussed how to deal with the child because you must always deal with yourself and know where you stand when setting boundaries. Once you take care of yourself that’s when you can then take care of whoever is crossing your boundaries. It makes it much easier.
3. Explain your boundaries to your child
The next step is pretty simple. All you have to do is explain your boundaries to your 7-year-old. They may need to be reminded and that’s okay. Make sure they understand. This is where setting clear boundaries is important.
You will not have as much success if you aren’t sure what the boundaries are. If you just tell them you don’t want them sleeping in your bed anymore that’s not going to cut it. Be specific, clear, and serious about those boundaries.
4. Enforce those boundaries diligently
There is absolutely no point in setting any boundaries if you don’t intend to enforce them. Because children are so persistent, they won’t stop because you told them too. Some children are obedient, others need practice.
You must be as persistent and diligent in enforcing those boundaries as they are in trying to cross them.
It can be hard to say no because you love them so much. However, it is necessary if you want to get any sleep and have your bedroom back.
5. Be prepared for the Consequences
Your child may throw a big fit when you begin to set boundaries. Change is hard for kids, especially when they’ve created unhealthy habits. Habits that are comfortable and cozy are difficult to break. Most of the time that’s when it’s worst.
Your 7-year-old has gotten attached and accustomed to sleeping with you. They will not leave quietly. Everything that lulls them to sleep is with you and your spouse.
You cannot let their reaction get in the way of keeping that boundary firm and strong. Your heartstrings will pull as you set these boundaries, but you will be grateful you did it in the end. You will see positive consequences if you are diligent.
Why Are They Sleeping With Us?
Studies have unclear results as to why some children (7-12) still sleep with their parents. However, there are a couple reasons that I’ve noticed which could be possible answers to that question.
The first reason is that you’ve not set clear boundaries. You’ve got a soft heart and can’t bear to let them sleep alone. You find comfort with having your child around, and they’ve slept with you up till now. It’s been a coping mechanism for you and a habit for them.
The other possibility is that they have emotional trauma and anxiety. I know that I was a child who would have kept sleeping in my parents’ bed (had they not made some changes in their boundaries) because I was scared.
A child sleeping in your room once in a while is not a bad thing, but you have to be careful that it doesn’t become a habit. You also have to wonder whether it’s a result of something larger going on. (Sometimes for you and for them)
Children these days are dealing with more divorce, anxiety, depression, and things like that more than ever before. Sleeping with their parents may be a result of that.
What Are Some Methods I Can Use to Help Them Adjust to Sleeping Alone?
When teaching your child to not only uphold your boundaries, but to be more independent, you should start small and work your way from there.
For example, instead of locking your door so they can’t get in and tying them down in bed (which I believe would likely be illegal), start by allowing them to sleep in the room with you.
Explain to them that they can’t sleep in the bed with you anymore because they are too old. You may also add that mom and dad’s bed is special for only mom and dad.
Allow them to sleep on a blanket on the floor if they are scared or feel alone. This allows them to not feel abandoned. Changing too rapidly or harshly can cause them to feel as though they are unwanted or abandoned. We don’t want that.
Eventually, some kids may realize that their bed is much more comfortable and will make the change for themselves. Others will not be as movable. You may need to give the more stubborn ones a little nudge after a little while. You may have to tell them that they can no longer sleep on the floor.
If they are really having a hard time, there are ways you can encourage them to stay in their own bed. My mom would do things like give me something of hers that reminded me of her. Teddy bears and things like that are also helpful tools.
If you were to let them have your blanket and buy yourself a different bedspread, that might help, and you could use it as an excuse to get yourself something new.
Try and observe what might be causing them anxiety or fear. Talk to them and show them that you are there and that you care. Sometimes it’s just a matter of your child not really understanding that they are safe and looked out for.
“Habits like sleeping with parents can easily start post-separation and, to some degree, are helpful in reassuring children, especially in the early days. However, like all habits, they can continue beyond their usefulness.”John Sharry
Techniques Suggested by Professionals
Here are some techniques suggested by professionals that may help your 7-year-old adjust to sleeping on his/her own.
- Meditation: Youtube has a ton of meditation videos for adults and children. Here’s an example of one. A lot of these videos can be as long as 7 hours. Or, they will be just long enough to put your child to sleep. There’s also videos that help your child overcome anxiety. (They are useful for adults too.)
- Music: Pandora or familiar and comforting music to help them sleep.
- Teddy Bears
- Reading to Them Before bed
- Create a bedtime routine: If you create a routine they will get used to then they will feel more at ease. THere’s something about routine and order that helps a child relax. It’s familiar to them and that can be just as soothing as sleeping with a parent.
- Make their room fun and enjoyable: If you make their room more appealing and say things like, “You can only have that if you sleep in your room because that’s special to your room.” Their room needs to be the place to be. If you do that, they will miss it and want to be there.
- Check on your child regularly for their sake. If you do it frequently enough before they fall asleep and after, they will assume you are doing it throughout the night even if you are not. This knowledge will put them more at ease.
- Do something with them other than allowing them to sleep with you: If you give them a midnight snack or read a book to them when they wake it may distract them from getting in bed with you. The reason they are doing so is because they want to be with you. So, give them the quality time they were looking for- only somewhere else.
- Comfort them when they have bad dreams: Again, they are looking for your support. You can support them without allowing them to sleep in your bed with you. You may have to make more of an effort, but you will be happy you did later.
- Get your child a night light: Some kids are just afraid of the dark. My parents got me a night light when I was little and it helped a ton. I would wake up scared and see the light and instead of going to my parents room I was calmed by the night light. It really works.
If there are siblings, your child can find comfort with them. I eventually discovered that my parent’s room was off limits for me to run to; that was mom and dad’s private no children zone.
I found refuge with my siblings who weren’t always happy to have me, but they had no choice because they had compassion. It’s actually not a bad idea to refer your child to their siblings.
It creates a bond between them, and they won’t be as co-dependent with each other as they would be with a parent. Siblings are a great way for your 7-year-old to adjust to sleeping alone. If you move them into a room with their brother or sister, they might stop coming to your room.
What Effect Does Co-sleeping Have on My Child?
Co-sleeping between parents and children have significant effects on both parties. Things like memory loss, fatigue, low energy, depression, and obesity can be a result for parents and children.
Co-dependency: excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support…Google Dictionary
Your child will have some co-dependency issues as a result of co-sleeping and they will not improve until you take some action and set boundaries. Co-dependency is a very undesirable result and is emotionally crippling.
Your 7-year-old won’t be able to handle doing sleepovers, camp-outs, or anything independent that will require them to spend the night. They won’t be able to do any of it without you having to come and pick them up because they are homesick.
As a parent, you won’t get as much sleep, and co-sleeping is detrimental to marriage relationships for obvious reasons. You won’t be able to have that quality time with your spouse, and certain important aspects of your marriage won’t be able to happen because there’s a kid in the middle.
While not all the effects of co-sleeping is negative, they are still detrimental in the long run and should be prevented and avoided if possible. Some parents have different circumstances than others. These differences in circumstances make a difference in how detrimental co-sleeping can be.
If we’re talking about a single parent with one child who lives in a one bedroom apartment, it’s less avoidable than a family of six who all have their own rooms or share with their siblings.
Will My 7-year-old Grow Out of It?
Your child will only grow out of it if you help them grow out of it. They can’t do it on their own because as a parent you are the one that has to teach them that they shouldn’t sleep with you anymore.
They are going to need boundaries if they are going to grow out of it. The more clear your boundaries and more consistent you are with keeping them, the faster your child will adjust and grow out of it.
Note: Be patient. Every child is different. Some will grow out of it more quickly than others. It’s important that they don’t create and keep the habit of sleeping with you, but remember that they are just children and you need to be wise and careful with how you choose to teach them.
You probably don’t need to fuss too much over whether or not they will grow out of it if you are taking the proper actions to prevent and stop them from sleeping with you.
Thoughts To Consider About Co-sleeping
Experts have greatly debated the benefits of children sleeping with their parents in the early years. It will depend on the need of your family and your circumstances.
Keep in mind that when they are really young it isn’t bad for them to sleep with you. A 7-year-old sleeping with their parents is by no means a huge concern.
I know a woman who’s 7-year-old daughter ended up sleeping with her parents in their room on a mattress for a little while just before they got divorced.
Kids react to their environment and may need that stability sleeping with their parents gives. If it’s for only a little while it can sometimes be exactly what your 7-year-old needs at the time.
While it’s not always what they need, it’s wise to not rule out reacting to their environment as a possible reason for co-sleeping. If you can see that your child is struggling it may be wise to allow it.
Why is co-sleeping bad for my child? Co-sleeping as a means to comfort your child is not wrong or bad. However, for a prolonged period of time, co-sleeping is bad because it encourages co-dependency in your child. It creates greater anxiety and depression and leads to things like obesity and a lack of independence.
How old is too old for my child to be sleeping in the same bed as me? It’s more a matter of how much your child is sleeping in the bed with you. If they are regularly in your bed, that’s too much. If they are reaching their teens, that’s probably too old.