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It depends on why your child needs you there, says Irwin Redlener, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Columbia University and president of the Children's Health Fund. In some cases, this reliance could be a sign of an underlying problem, but if you both enjoy this routine or if you think she needs extra comforting from you, it's perfectly fine.
She might simply cherish the special time with you. Perhaps your lives are hectic and this ritual is a way to reconnect. Or maybe she has a new baby brother, and she's discovered that a nightly lie-down gets her some one-on-one time.
Another possibility is that she needs a little extra reassurance because of a challenging circumstance, such as a difficult teacher or a tough situation with friends.
In these cases, there's no cause for concern. As long as you have the time and don't mind lying down with your child at bedtime, the "ain't broke, don't fix it" maxim applies perfectly. "This can be a wonderful opportunity for a parent and child to spend some positive, quiet time together," says Redlener.
Despite what anyone says, you're not dooming your child to a permanent bad habit by indulging her wishes now. "She won't need you to lie down with her at college," Redlener says.
Some reasons for needing a bedside companion are problematic, however. Your child may be feeling insecure about your relationship.
She may be trying to assure herself that she has some control over you, or she may be afraid that if she doesn't keep you with her, she'll be abandoned. She may even feel that she needs to keep you close to protect you.
In these cases, what starts out as a soothing routine can quickly develop into a nightly power struggle.
If you suspect that one of these larger problems exists, take action. Check in with your child's teacher or school counselor to see if they've noticed any red flags. If you're still concerned, schedule a session with a family therapist.
If you decide to stop lying down with your child — either because it's turned into a power struggle or because you simply don't have the time — it's usually best to avoid the cold turkey approach. Redlener advises "weaning" instead. For example, you can agree to lie with her for 15 or 20 minutes each night, gradually decreasing this amount of time.
But don't feel that you have to extinguish bedside time together completely. Savor it while it lasts — these special moments will be fond memories someday.