Any tips for getting a 6 y.o. to get to sleep by herself? - Mothering Forums
Co-sleeping and the Family Bed > Any tips for getting a 6 y.o. to get to sleep by herself?
bookwormmama's Avatar bookwormmama 03:14 AM 12-26-2002
Hi there. I was wondering if anyone had any experience with older children and cosleeping. My dd is just about 6 and still sleeps with us, in a twin bed next to our queen. Bedtime is such a hassle for me!! I also have an almost 2 year old and they go to sleep at the same time, usually. We have a pretty consistent routine, we do jammies, washing up, read a book and then I nurse my ds to sleep.

The problem is my dd, who is soooo attached to me, must rub my arm, ear, any exposed body part. She still uses a pacifier (gasp! :-) and refuses to part with it. Any refuses to even consider lying down by herself to get to sleep. She never has, and even when i mention it, she gets teary and starts to cry.

It's very hard for dh and I, because we did CIO with her before we knew better, and had many many emotionally painful struggles with bedtime when she was younger. I have so much guilt for what happened in the past that i can't force her into something she isn't willing to accept.

But i'm getting to my breaking point.

It wouldn't be so bad if she went to sleep right away, but it sometimes takes an hour of her rubbing my arm, tossing and turning, talking, and just generally being restless before she is asleep. I sooooo need time alone and time with dh at night, but by the time they are asleep, i'm ready for bed too! I must admit that there are some nights that i just want to make her cry it out, but she is so persistent, she would cry for 1/2 the night and there is no way i want to go through that again. The poor kid went throught so much crying as a baby and toddler.

So, long story short, anyone got any advice? or just commiseration?


lucimomster's Avatar lucimomster 07:11 PM 12-27-2002
I could be completely out to lunch with this suggestion, but it's one thing I've noticed with my 2 1/2 yo son:

Is your daughter getting enough physical exercise on the days when she resists sleep? I've noticed that on the days when we've been particularly couch potato-ish, #1 son is much more restless when it's time for bed. Like our dog (poor guy, living in a condo w/o a yard!), apparently my DS has to get his ya-yas out before he can rest. (Our dog has this crazy routine when my DH comes home from work, when he runs around and jumps and barks like a puppy, all excited. After awhile of getting physical -- and getting far more attention than he does through the day -- he'll settle down again and act like the grown-up dog that he is.)

So I'm gonna try to test this idea, and thought i'd mention it.

good luck!

Momtwice's Avatar Momtwice 07:46 PM 12-27-2002
I deal with similar stuff sometimes (school age kids who want to cosleep) and I think that sounds very sensible in the response above. I think daylight and fresh air and exercise could really help and I will try that tomorrow! I have noticed it is worse in the winter. Maybe your child is cold and needs warmer blankets.

Personally I take a break sometimes and ask dh to cuddle mine to bed. He isn't always around at night to do it (work) but when he is I take a night off from doesn't mean it has to be a permanent break, if I need a break SOMETIMES from hugging a child as they fall asleep, who knees me in the belly hard the whole time and I ask her over and over to stop hurting me....

She better treat me like GOLD when I am a helpless old lady
The better we treat them least that's what I keep telling myself!
maybebaby's Avatar maybebaby 01:02 AM 01-02-2003
I was just coming over here to post the same question!!

My ds is going to be 7 next month. He still sleeps in a twin in our room (not in our same bed) along with his 4 yr old sister. Gage is the one who throws a total fit when we start talking about sleeping in his room. We got them bunk beds so they'd still be sleeping in the same room (probably in the same bunk) and Maddie is fine with it. It's Gage who's not. And he does get enough exercise (believe me!) so I don't think that's it. I think we just waited too long and it's going to have to be tough to get him into his room.

Our plan is to either lie in bed with them in their room until they fall asleep (although we tried this before and it didn't work well) or just taking them in there after they fall asleep in our room.

And it's not that it bothers me *that* much, it's just that he's got to be old enough to sleep in his room. And again, I worry that we've waited too long. He doesn't even want to go upstairs before us at night; that's what we were working on figuring it would help get him accustomed to falling asleep alone. He throws a total freakfest, just literally sobbing at the top of the stairs. This seems odd for an almost 7 year old.

Anyone else have any ideas?? Anyone btdt??
bookwormmama's Avatar bookwormmama 01:17 AM 01-02-2003
First of all, thanks for the replies all, that exercise suggestion is a good one cause i tend to slack in that dept.

maybebaby, do we have the same child? Oh wait, mine is a girl, tee hee. but my dd Ellie does the exact same thing if we even suggest that she sleep alone. She will not lie down alone either.

No way, uh uh.

I have resigned myself to sleeping with her, she sleeps in twin bed next to ours, but tries to get as close to me as possible, lol.
I don't mind her sleeping there either, but sometimes when it takes an hr for her to fall asleep it gets frustrating ya know?

But she is sooo afraid to be alone i don't want to force the issue. I just read Good Nights by Jay Gordon and Maria Goodavage and i must say it made me feel pretty good about our family bed. If you are having doubts i highly recommend it.

It can be so hard for me to continue to be responsive to her needs, especially when i feel she is "old enough" to be alone, sleep alone etc. but every kid is different, and i have to force myself to remember that!

So anyway, hope that helps! Peaceful nights to you!

mamaduck's Avatar mamaduck 01:41 AM 01-02-2003
Well, my 6 year old has always been pretty good about being alone, so I might be able to identify with you more when my younger son is 6 and still needs to touch my skin in order to fall asleep! It sounds a little like maybe your presence is prolonging her falling asleep stage? Because maybe she likes it sooo much.

I do have a couple ideas though.
-Making a deal that you will lay with her for X number of minutes and then you plan to give her some space.
- You could talk to her and try to make a deal which includes her laying alone to fall asleep and you coming in every 10 minutes to check on her, and then really follow through and check on her every 10 minutes.
-Making her bedtime later so she's more tired.
-Letting her listen to a LONG story tape at bedtime if she will lay by herself (Jim Weiss is the best story tape story teller.)
-Taking turns with Daddy and switching off every 20 min. until she is asleep.
OR -Taking turns every other night with Daddy.

I also wanted to say -- you need to be guided by wisdom here, and a sense of what is best for her and for you. What I mean is -- don't let yourself be guided by guilt over the past.
bookwormmama's Avatar bookwormmama 02:26 AM 01-02-2003
You are so right about not being guided by my guilt. That is just not healthy for me or for Ellie.

Those were so great suggestions, especially the one about the later bedtime. Right now she and ds, 2 go to bed at the same time. Maybe some special cuddle time a bit later will help her fall asleep better. I'll talk to her about it tomorrow and see if she thinks it would help. Thanks!!

Sue :-)
mamajama's Avatar mamajama 11:52 PM 01-02-2003
another suggestion is to maybe try teaching her to meditate. I just got a book recently called "Moonbeam: a book of meditations for children" by Maureen Garth. My (almost) three year old son loves it although he is a bit too young to really do it on his own although already, when he is lying down I can say "choose your star (a prelude to the meditations) and I'll be right back" and he does! Maybe this will help her learn that she can be happy and relaxed even on her own.
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 02:54 AM 01-03-2003
I'm sorry that you are struggling with this. It must be very tough for all of you.

I just felt the need to defend cosleeping here a bit. I do not believe that if you "had done this earlier" that you would have avoided this issue. Unfortunately, this is an experiment you cannot do, because we cannot turn back the clock and retry it with the same child. However, everything I've read about the family bed etc suggests that *most* children wean themselves from it at around age 3 or so. Your children are individuals and don't need to fit anybody's standards but their own, I just think you should know that your cosleeping or lack of forcing them to sleep alone is NOT the cause, at least I don't believe it is (FWIW, lol).

I do think that maybe there are other issues here, and the suggestions about exercise and bedtimes are certainly good ones. But I wonder if maybe there isn't something else going on here. Like bookwormmama maybe it has to do with the earlier CIO you guys did (and I am NOT saying this to make you feel guilty!! you don't need that!!) I am just saying it in the hopes that if you can understand WHY it is happening you can stop beating yourself up about it and maybe it will help you address it. I really say this with love, it is so obvious that you are a gentle and loving mama...this is just MHO and I'm going only on what you've written: it just sounds like your DD is clinging to you and exhibiting behaviours often ascribed to kids who have been let to CIO and other detached stuff. I'm guessing that with all the love you are giving her and being so gentle with her regarding this sleep issue, perhaps she "just can't get enough"... the book Playful Parenting the author talks about kids having "cups" that need filling and your DD may just need alot of "filling" right now until she knows that you will always be there to fill it....gosh, I'm not explaining this very well am I?

spirited mama's Avatar spirited mama 04:45 AM 01-03-2003
Don't feel bad bookwormmama, my seven year old cannot sleep alone, and neither can my three year old. At night they are my babies but during the day they are independent brilliant little boys. Most kids seem to have trouble falling asleep, or waking up alone until they are nine or ten. The parents who use Ferber or some method of getting the child the sleep are solving the parents problem, not the child's problems or fears. If you are addressing your daughter's fears, and needs your are doing an excellent parenting job.

Another issue you might be grappling with is time alone with dh. An afternoon alone while someone takes the kids works wonders, as does intimate moments mornings in the living room or kitchen.
Piglet68's Avatar Piglet68 03:55 PM 01-03-2003
I thought about this some more and I guess what I was trying to say in my rambling post above was that perhaps your DD just really needs you in this way right now and I think it is great that you are willing and able to be there for her. Maybe you and her could have a talk about it, and maybe your DH could take over a few nights and give you a break. You sound like such a wonderful mama!!

bookwormmama's Avatar bookwormmama 05:54 PM 01-03-2003
Awww, thanks Piglet! I think you really hit it with what you said about our past CIO issues. I sometimes have small freak outs with her "dependence" when i start comparing her to other children, especially non-gently parented ones. Thanks so much everyone for your support! It makes me so happy to know that this is just normal for her and I am doing right by listening to her needs.

Momtwice's Avatar Momtwice 08:48 PM 01-03-2003
Piglet I loved your post...its true, some kids just need mom later! I have a dd who is 8+ who still needs me most nights and she never CIOed to sleep...that is just her intense personality, her intense need for me. It can be quite overwhelming. have heard of children 10 and 12 who still want company at night. It seems to me it's a basic human need...yet we resist it so, we wonder if it's normal, we agonize where in other countries where they are "primitive" and "suffering" from having a small house : they probably all curl up in a nice warm pile without all this second guessing and angst....

The Gordon book and the one you suggested, Piglet, sound great.
spirited mama's Avatar spirited mama 10:24 PM 01-03-2003
Sleepsharing is still the norm 4.2 is the average weaning age!
MaWhit's Avatar MaWhit 03:45 AM 01-04-2003
As long as it is taking her to fall asleep, I think considering a later bedtime (as others have suggested) is a good idea. But then you may have a harder time getting the 2 yr old to fall asleep.

Also, she is plenty old enough to help you resolve this situation, too. Sometime far from bedtime, in the morning , or anytime she is in an especially good and receptive mood, gently tell her how you feel about bedtimes and ask her how she feels, then ask her if she can think of anything that would make it easier on both of you. Just brainstorm and write down all the ideas, no matter how silly, and then choose some that are acceptable to both of you. I think that being a part of the decision to make some changes may make her more willing to accept them.
guest^'s Avatar guest^ 02:05 AM 01-05-2003
I should consistently keep checking this forum....there are just so many great things to read atMDC....

When I have come here, I never saw talk about older cosleepers....

So glad I'm not the only one!!


my 6 yodd got her own twin size bed for her 6th BD....I got pretty,soft, flannel sheets,and a pretty lamp for her table. When we can afford it, we'll get her a pretty quilt.

She had asked for months for us to get her set up sleeping in her own room!

And then after getting the bed, she .....didn't want to sleep in it!

Our thoughts are thatour kids are always welcome to sleep in our for 2 weeks...she slept on the floor next to me(was sick)....and then one night, she just carried all her stuff into her room and said she was going to sleep in there!

For over two weeks she slept in her room by herself.

And now,she is sick again...and back next to me on the floor.

I feel confident that she will go back into her room when she feels good about it.

I just wanted to convey to you that we have always let her decide where she wants to sleep-no pressure from us.

Until she was 4 1/2 I did lay down with her till she was almost asleep...then would go out.

after the baby came,we all went in to tuck her in and read books and say prayers...and that is how she does it now. WE then leave her to look at books for a while by herself, and then she falls asleep.

The other posters had great ideas, I would just like to offer that you be sure to leave a light on for her, and make the area where she falls asleep really pretty. DD has glow in the dark stars in our room above where she sleeps,and she has her special dolly or doggy every night.

I think this is something that will take time. And I see the getting her to sleep by herself is a different issue from cosleeping. I wouldn't accept pressure from others to get her to sleep in her own room. IMHO kids will do things when they are ready, as long as the parent is showing the confidence in them w/opressuring them.


maybebaby's Avatar maybebaby 07:51 PM 01-05-2003
It's so good to know we're not the only ones, too!! I feel better about it now

I usually only have a couple nights here and there where I wish they'd decide to go to their rooms; it's normally a fleeting wish when I look at their sweet little sleeping faces (and those memories help me get through those days when their faces aren't nearly so sweet lol!)

I guess I just doubt that they'll go to their room when my ds says he wants to sleep in our room forever but I know deep down that one day he'll want his independence from us. I worked a deal with him where they will go up to bed at a certain point then we'll come up later. I think not having any one on one time with dh was getting to be a problem for me, so this will solve that dilemma.

mamaduck's Avatar mamaduck 08:06 PM 01-05-2003
Once when ds was about 4, he told me that when he grew up and got married, his wife would probably want to sleep in our bed with him .... and us!


He was so serious!!
bookwormmama's Avatar bookwormmama 01:26 AM 01-06-2003
That's funny Mamaduck!! Ellie gets sad and will even start to tear up if we talk about her moving out. She says she will live with us forever! It makes me feel so loved. It really is such a short time that they want to be so close to us. And i do love those times when we are lying in bed at night and dd says to me, "i love you so much, all i think about is you" in the tune of that song "Dilema" It is soo funny!

Mallory's Avatar Mallory 11:38 AM 01-06-2003
Maybe with the later bed time you could start asking for her to play alone so you could have some time too. My 3 year old plays so nicely at night if ds #2 is already asleep. He often spends much of the time back in his room building things that no one else is going to mess up (I have found that giving him the digital camera so he can capture them on film gives me even more time!). He will play back there for 30 or 40 minutes most nights.

Another thing that works for me is a book light. Even if I have to lay back there for a long time to get everyone to sleep I can read my book and not just lay there in the dark. Maybe she would lay next to you and read her book before going to sleep?
SoHappy's Avatar SoHappy 01:32 PM 01-06-2003
Have you tried sleeping together in her room? Maybe having somebody there to protect her from the unknown would help her get more comfortable with the idea. Although we still cosleep, we do this sometime with ds (3.5yo) and it works. He's getting less hesitant about sleeping in his room.

Also sometimes we lay down with ds in his room and when he goes to sleep we get up. If he wakes later he comes into our bed, but it's not until around 3am. The next morning we tell him how awesome it was that he slept so long with just himself. The other day he actually told us that it was "comfy, and I got all the blankies."