Many people in the non-AP world are surprised when I make mention of one of my children sleeping with me. At 6.5 and 4.5 years of age, many seem to think that they are too old to be co-sleeping. Some of these parents co-slept with their infants but their children moved on to their own beds at some point. Mine did as well, but not for long.
I am truly thankful that I fell into the attachment parenting practice when my first was a newborn, thankful for many reasons. These days I am thankful that I don’t have any preconceived notions of where children should sleep. This has proven beneficial not only to my children, but also to me.
Both of my children have varying special needs but a common thread between the two of them is anxiety. My daughter, who is 4.5, is also language delayed. She doesn’t have a solid enough understanding of language for us to be able to explain the things that cause her anxiety and fears. As night comes, she quickly becomes more anxious about her surroundings refusing to leave our sides. For a family who forbids a child from sleeping with a parent, this would become a stressful time for both parent and child.
When my daughter’s anxiety increased, it was simply a matter of bringing her back into our bed (she had transitioned to her own room for several months at the age of three). Now my daughter is able to get a full night’s rest without fear and so do my husband and I.
My son, at 6.5, also has major nighttime anxiety. Although he has a vast vocabulary, he doesn’t understand why he is so fearful after dark. After sleeping in his own room for years, without any problems, he has also transitioned back into our room. Unfortunately he is plagued by vivid nightmares which continue even in bed with us. It pains my heart to see him thrash about and cry out in his sleep but I am happy that I am able to be near him and provide comfort.
I know that our family’s decision to not place boundaries on our children’s ability to sleep with us is helping us all right now. If I were to insist that my children sleep in their own beds “like big boys and girls do” then no one, not a single one of us, would be getting any sleep. Nighttime parenting goes beyond the nursing years and does stretch into childhood and beyond. Knowing what your children’s needs are, and meeting those needs in a way that is optimal for everyone, helps the family’s bond grow stronger.