My child refuses to sleep alone, how can I handle this problem?

My child refuses to sleep alone recently. How can I help her to sleep by herself?

If your child has some recent disturbing experiences, such as change of caregiver, starting school or having watched news about disasters, she may feel anxious, refusing to sleep alone. At such times, she needs the company of her family to enhance her sense of security. Generally speaking, this is only a transitional period. If your child is not only afraid of sleeping alone but also has other signs of emotional disturbances, or if the problem persists, you need to seek help from the related professionals.

If it is not due to emotional problems, your child may have developed a poor sleep habit. During infancy, if your child does not develop the habit of falling asleep herself, it may cause her dependence on your presence to sleep now. Set up a quiet bedtime routine, helping her understand that it will soon be time to go to sleep. Use the time to brush her teeth, read a story, listen to quiet music and kiss her goodnight when going to sleep. You may then dim or switch off the light and leave the room. It will be the time for her to fall asleep in her bed.

You may have an agreement with your child beforehand or consider using a star chart as motivation. For instance, when she can fall asleep quietly on her own, award her a star or sticker the next morning. A collection of three stars can be exchanged for a reward of her favorite activity.

If my child refuses to stay in her room, or comes out crying after sleeping for a while, what shall I do?

Cooperation from the adults in the family is very important in developing your child’s sleep routine. Parents need to be aware of their daily routines. If you watch television at your child’s bedtime, the noise may disturb her sleep and may even attract her to get out of her room. It would be better for everyone to go to their bedrooms at the child’s bedtime.

If she walks out of her room, take her back immediately and tell her it is time to bed. Basically, if your child cries and screams in her room and you are sure that it is only a way to attract your attention, you can insist ignoring her. Let her understand that you are serious with your words and gradually she will fall asleep by herself.

If you are worried, you can try the second method, that is, wait for 5 minutes before you go and check on her. Just comfort her, with no hugging or playing with her. Don’t stay for more than a minute. If she cries and screams again after you leave, you have to wait for more than 5 minutes before checking on her again. Then repeat the 1-minute stay method, and so on. The waiting time should be gradually lengthened until she stays quiet.

The third method is more gentle. You can stay in her room and stay by her side but do not talk or play with her. Pretend you are sleeping, ignore her unless she gets out of bed. Put her in bed again if she does so, ask her to lie down and then pay no attention to her.

You can choose one, out of the 3 methods, that is suitable for you and your child. With patience and consistency, the sleeping problem of your child will be solved.