We have a high needs son, who has never been a great sleeper since he was born, however, he's starting to actually be more dependent on constant touch in order to stay asleep. We've done the family bed since he was an infant, however, he's always started out in his own room and then spent the rest of the night in our room, usually from about 11/12pm on until morning. However, he now barely sleeps an hour in his own room before he's waking up and wanting to be in our room. If we put him in our bed, he will immediately go back to sleep and he spends the rest of the night cuddled up to one of us, and is always making sure we are still right there, if we start to move around to much, he will reach out until he's touching someone.
We have gone through a change recently in his day to day sitter situation which might be causing a little anxiety and therefore, disrupting his typical sleep pattern. My husband and I work full time and he had been with a sitter since he was born, however, he's starting a preschool this fall, and we couldn't make a preschool situation work with his current sitter, so just last month he started at the preschool/daycare full time. He says he likes school and is fine when I drop him off and is happy when I pick him up, he doesn't seem to be having any issues with school, but I'm sure the change has still been a little stressful to him.
I assume this is what is causing these nighttime changes, but my concern is that we are starting a habit that will be tough to break. I was okay with the family bed, later on in the evening until morning. However, now he wants to be in our bed earlier, and I can't get anything done in the evening, because he won't just sleep in it by himself, he needs someone in bed with him to stay asleep. He has expressed how he doesn't like to sleep alone, and I'm not sure how to reassure him?
I'm not sure exactly what I am looking for, if others have been in this situation, what have you done/tried? Any advice?
I would wean him from physical touch during sleeping time first and compromise with the need for more security at the same time. This would be my plan in this sequence...
1. Put him to sleep in your bed with his own pillow. Insist that his head stays on the pillow and instead of laying down with him sit next to him and offer your hand for him to snuggle to fall asleep. This should make it easier to sneak away and as he gets use to less touch work to the next step.
2. Sit next to him and don't offer your hand. I would say I needed to do something on my phone etc.. But assure him you're right there and if he gets upset stroke his hair or offer some kind of minor but brief touch. Again, insist his head remain on his own pillow. When comfortable falling asleep without touch go to next step.
3. Start off the sitting with him but when you see he calms and drowsy, tell him you have to do something in the room like fold a basket of laundry. Do so right in front of him so he can see you and feel secure. If he gets upset go over. And give him a little touch without standing next to the bed. But go back to being "busy" as soon as he is calm.
After working through these steps he will be weaned from your touch to needing only your presence. Then you can work on the own bed thing. Sleeping through the night may not be something he can do but by teaching him to fall asleep without touch he runs a better chance of staying in his own bed during nighttime wake ups. Ofcourse getting him to go to sleep in his own bed may need to be a gradual thing too.
Good luck!!! I did this with my daughter since she was the same and I had a new baby so I couldn't be cuddling her all night long.
maybe you've already thought of this & maybe it's not feasible, but maybe you guys could somehow make different bedtimes for yourselves so he's not asleep before you can be, too? if you simply aren't able yourselves to get as many hours of sleep per night as you allow the kiddo to get, perhaps you parents could stagger your sleep, so one of you is always in bed when the kid's asleep? but, hey, the vast majority of adults are getting way too little sleep, and it takes its toll on your health in very real tangible ways, even if that's not apparent in an ongoing way. it's easy not to prioritize something that no one else our age takes seriously b/c then we feel we're not getting enough done (or sometimes we genuinely are not), so what better way to motivate us to improve this vastly undervalued bit of the picture of overall health than because we have no choice–the high needs child in our lives needs us to!?
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