QUESTION: I need your help. I have
a two year old daughter that won't stay in her bed for the whole night.
Here's our routine: 8pm I place her in the bed and allow her to play
herself to sleep; 8:30-8:45pm return to her room to turn off the light.
At around 2-3am is when she comes into my room and makes one of two
requests: "Can I watch TV?" or "Can I sleep with you?" This does not
happen every night. When it does happen, my boyfriend is usually over
and will spend the night.
I used to think she was just after my attention
so I asked my boyfriend to come over after she had already gone to
sleep. She somehow still senses his presence and tiptoes in anyway.
What can I do to make her stay in her room without making her feel
like I'm not devoting all my love and attention to her?
ANSWER: You are experiencing a dilemma between your own interpretation
of motherly devotion and your burgeoning relationship. It may well
be your own internal conflict that is coloring your interpretation
of your daughter's behavior. It is possible that your daughter is
merely curious about who is coming and going in the night and is waking
up to check out the changes that are occurring in her environment!
Rather than trying to hide the facts from your daughter,
try letting her know in advance what is going to happen. Let her know
when your boyfriend will be coming over and consider spending special
time reading to her as a bedtime ritual rather than leaving her alone
to play herself to sleep. This gives her the message that she is special
and bedtime is associated with getting connected with you prior to
falling asleep. You can also let her know that she will be included
in breakfast in the morning, or saying "good-bye" to your boyfriend
when he leaves. This may assure her that her space in your life is
secure whether or not your boyfriend is spending the night.
If you give your daughter your full attention regularly
and on a consistent basis, she will learn that you also give attention
to your boyfriend in ways you deem appropriate. She will adjust to
your expectations for sharing you with a significant other if your
communication is clear. Resolve your own guilt by taking special time
to connect at bedtime and letting her know when your boyfriend will
be spending the night. Let her know that you expect her to stay in
her own bed at night, and provide a special night light and stuffed
animals if they are soothing to her.
If she does appear at your bedside, simply take her
back to her own bed and tuck her in with her animals. Be certain that
your expectations that she sleep in her own bed are consistently upheld
whether or not your boyfriend stays overnight, as she could otherwise
feel (legitimately) misplaced by his presence.
It may take a few times of getting up in the night
before your daughter is reassured that all is OK and that what goes
on is exactly what you told her was going to happen. Your truthfulness
and reliability will afford her even greater security and trust in
your love. This should help both of you sleep more peacefully!
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