*** I’ve put out more videos than articles lately so I thought with this one I would give you both a video and a written article to give you the option of choosing the one you prefer. Please let me know in the comments if you like having a transcript to go with the video, so I can do the same next time. ***
After filming my family bed video where I did a tour of our co-sleeping set up, it occurred to me that some people may be wondering why our five year old is still in the family bed rather than his own room.
It isn’t particularly common for parents to bed share with school aged children in the Western world, however in other parts of the world it is very much an accepted practice. For some, this is simply down to poverty, but for many, it is a choice. It is what feels comfortable and natural to them, and these parents make a conscious choice to keep their children close during the night.
In Japan is is very common for parents and children to bed share up until puberty. As the child approaches their teen years, they naturally start to want their own space and they will move towards feeling more comfortable being in a room of their own. Of course, for every child this is different, but human nature is to gravitate towards attachment and security in the form of other people.
Little Cat has always slept with us, either in a side car cot, in the big bed with us or in his bed which is attached to ours. He has always slept in our bedroom, and although he has a bedroom of his own, he doesn’t actually have a bed in there. This is a choice of his. We have talked several times about getting him a cabin bed so that he can start to feel more comfortable with the idea of sleeping in there and this is something we may do in the coming years, but right now he isn’t interested in having a bed in his room, as he likes the floor space for his train track.
So why haven’t we pushed to change this and transition him out of the family bed?
Well, I always like to say, if the situation isn’t working for you, change it. But with co sleeping, we are still waiting for that moment to happen. It works for us. It’s easy. We all get a good nights sleep this way.
I also have a one year old who sleeps with us. To put her to sleep in our bed and him to sleep in a separate room would be really awkward to manage. And I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this who are thinking, “Well why cant he put himself to sleep? He’s five!” But that’s just not how we do bedtime. We like to read a story together. He likes to use that peaceful time to ask us questions and talk about things he is interested in. We reconnect after a busy day and talk about anything on his mind. We also use this time to address any behaviours that are coming out in the day, and in the dark he feels far more comfortable opening up and sharing his worries.
Right now, it works for us and we can’t see a reason to change it. But it isn’t something we are forcing on him. He knows that as soon as he wants to leave the family bed, that option is available to him and we will support him in whatever he is comfortable with. Right now, this is the easy option and as a family we all agree it is working just fine.
The great thing about co-sleeping is that when he wakes in the night, when he has a night terror or nightmare, I am right there, and so is Daddy. He doesn’t have to get into a panic, and he never hurts himself by sleepwalking because we are able to hear as soon as he moves and stay by his side until he falls asleep again. Sometimes he will talk in his sleep, and even though he doesn’t remember this in the morning it gives me an insight into anything playing on his mind, and enables me to talk about these things with him during the daytime. If he wakes and needs the toilet, he doesn’t have to walk through our long dark hallway by himself, he can just ask one of us to turn on a light and it doesn’t have to turn into this big scary thing. It is easy.
Our family bed is big and we all have our own sleeping areas within it. It’s comfortable for all of us and when bedtime comes, he is happy to climb under the aeroplane sheets he chose and snuggle down for the night.
Yes. He’s five. And this may be the first time you have heard of “extended” co-sleeping. But it’s not as uncommon as you may think. I actually know a lot of parents who sleep with children upwards of nine and ten years old.
The thing is when they are little, one, two, even three years old, people are more happy to talk about it. Co sleeping is a common thing to do, and even parents who don’t intend to bed share often find their little ones climbing into bed with them at some point during the night. But as they get older, people get quiet about it. There is a lot of fear surrounding it, worry about what society will think about you breaking out of the norm, and this is magnified because people aren’t talking about it. People don’t want to be ostracised by society for their unconventional parenting choices. But it is happening. And it is more common than you think.
We are doing it, and if you are co-sleeping and worrying about when it has to stop, my advice is to do what feels comfortable to you and your children. You don’t have to rush them out of the bed if everyone is happy with the current set up. You don’t need to mess with your bedtime routines and create problems unless you are finding that co-sleeping has run its course. If its not broke, don’t fix it. I promise you, they won’t be in with you forever, they just won’t.
Maybe it’s not for you, and that’s OK too. But it works for us.
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