- Is there an ideal age when children should stop sleeping in their parent’s bed and if so, what is it?
I don’t feel that there are any specific ages to cease bed-sharing. When the parents or the child decide it is time for a change represents the ideal time.
- Is it a problem if they continue to do this after that age (apart from parents being exhausted) and what issues are there?
There are no sleep problems until how sleep is experienced becomes problematic for those involved. Some parents may report that it takes ages to get their child to sleep at bedtime meaning that they have little time themselves to switch off. Or they may report that bed-sharing disturbs their own sleep and that if woken they find it hard to get back to sleep and therefore, they are not well rested themselves. Some children that share the bed experience broken sleep too with the same effect. Bed-sharing may also mean that the parents no longer share a bed, and this may have an impact on the couple relationship. However, bed-sharing is a personal, inhouse decision and parents decide what feels right for them and their child on an individual basis.
When parents make changes to how their child experiences their sleep it is a time of adjustment, it may be considered easier before your child is pre-verbal, but it can also be more straight forward with an older child, as you can explain and collaborate with them and gently ease them into a new sleep experience.
- Do you believe it gets harder to encourage children into their own beds as they get older and what tips would you have for parents to help kids make the transition?
As the child becomes older encouraging their positive input to the changes can be a helpful way of initiating the transition. Some will find this easier than others. How the child experiences the world in general may help inform how you can expect them to tolerate this change. In some instances, it is the child that initiates the changes as well.
I believe that if either the parent or the child is ready and make the changes that support the architect of the child’s sleep with regular wake and bedtimes, and more importantly their emotional response to the new sleep environment, then it can be a nourishing adventure. Building up to the changes, seeking their involvement- explain, make a book with them, show them in images the changes: spend non sleep time in the bedroom and help them to understand their own sleep space -that is both sleep friendly and one that they have developed a positive relationship with too. Having a bedtime routine (either with the parent or self-directed -aged based) that happens outside of the bed in the bedroom and focused on creating a calm setting before sleep time and being predictable with them around the changes, all help this phase. Using my staged based stay and support approach can help foster falling asleep at bedtime without a parent and learning to stay asleep in their own bed overnight too.