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Thank you for this thoughtful question—it's such an
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.
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
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.
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?"