My 11yo DD is having issues going to sleep at night. She wants to sleep with me and my husband every night. Here's how it got started: A little over a year ago, my husband left us. The separation devastated us both and we slept on the couch for weeks...then eventually slept in my bed together for months. It was comforting for me as well as for her, and it made bedtime much simpler and easier in a time when neither of us had much energy.
Eventually I tried to get her to start sleeping on her own: (1) I needed my own space, and (2) I felt it was better for her mental health...bedtimes were getting ridiculous. She couldn't go to sleep unless I went to bed at the same time, she had to have certain stuffed animals, she had to say "I love you" as her last words before she fell asleep. She seemed to be getting more and more emotionally insecure, so I thought some boundaries might help.
To start out, I told her she had to sleep on her own 1 day/week and she could pick the day. Then a few weeks later, I upped it to 2 days...and so on. This worked for a little bit, but it quickly became a source of stress as she had to figure out which day she'd be the most sad or scared. Our psychologist said I should just let her sleep with me as much as she wants, take the pressure off, etc., and she will eventually want to sleep on her own. We tried that...and it worked for a couple weeks. She slept on her own a few times when she wanted to...and then it was back in bed with mom every night for weeks.
Now, my husband is back in the picture. At first, he slept on the couch but now that we are working on our relationship fully, he is back in bed with me. This has escalated the situation. Her first thought when she was told that we were reconciling was that she wouldn't get to sleep with me anymore. She cares more about that than anything. We have told DD that she can sleep on the floor anytime she wants...and I told her I would also sleep in her bed with her every once in a while or stay in her room till she falls asleep (however, my husband doesn't really like it...he says we're enabling her emotional dependency). Like everything else we've tried, this worked for a while but in the past week, she's wanted to sleep in our room every night.
Here's what bedtime looks like...
She goes to bed at 8 and is allowed to read or watch TV until 9:30...we set this plan up because she thought it would help her to relax and be able to sleep on her own more easily. She is supposed to fall asleep by 9:30 but what happens more often is she stays awake and then comes in our room when we go to bed at 10 or 11. She cries almost every night when it's time for bed. She tells me that she hates bedtime more than anything in the world. I've tried to understand what the deep issues are...she says she's afraid of losing me, of something happening to me during the night...she doesn't think I would leave her like my husband did, but she's afraid I'll get hurt or die or something.
I guess my question for the forum is...what should I do? I can't figure out if this is something where I should take a firm stand and push her to sleep on her own...will that help her to become stronger emotionally or make her resentful and angry? Or if I should just let her continue sleeping with us when she needs to and tweak the bedtime routine (no TV, etc.)? Any advice is appreciated...sorry this is so long!