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How Do I Tell My Kid She's On Her Own?

Dear Heather,

How do you present it to your child that you won't be lying next to them until they fall asleep anymore?


Paige (via Instagram)

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Dear Paige,

Thank you for this thoughtful question—it's such an important one.

Backing up a step: Lying down with your child while they fall asleep can start out as a sweet and effective route to bedtime. But, for most parents, it quickly becomes stressful and time-consuming. In the end, it's a roadblock to our kids feeling confident about sleep and often leads to them waking in the night or too early in the morning.

What to do when you're changing this pattern is one thing (see previous posts or look at our website for options on how to accomplish this).

Once you've made a plan to extricate yourself, though, how do you explain that change to your child? It's super important to make your child aware and talk about it in a non-judgmental and positive way during the day.

Here are some words to use:

We're going to start doing things a little differently at bedtime. I've been next to you while you fall asleep, but now I'll be right outside. It's my job to help you sleep really well, and I know you can do it. Sleep is natural, our bodies just know how to do it, like breathing!

You'll have (choose any stuffed animal or lovey) here for you if you need extra hugs and kisses when I say good night.

We'll do our usual routine (if you know "The Happy Sleeper" methods, this is the time to remind about "last call" and the "check ons"). After the lights are out, you're in charge of your own body and your own stuff.

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These words should be enough to get you started. The general idea is that we let our kids know a change is coming, acknowledge that it might feel different and ask them how it went the next day. Try to avoid big praising—and definitely steer clear of negative consequences if it doesn't happen. Ask your child how she felt when she fell asleep on her own. "How did it go? How does her body feel?"

Sleep happy,


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Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of " The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age ," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations . Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

Photograph by: Twenty20

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