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Parents Get Jitters Too: The Importance of Teaching Your Child to Feel Safe In His Crib or Bed

Written by Gentle Sleep Coach, Brooke Nalle

Unfortunately this past weekend I spent a lot of time feeling afraid; afraid for my children, our children, afraid for our country as I began to process the devastating elementary school shooting on Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut. Like many parents, I kept thinking about my very primal need to keep my family, especially my children, safe. Even this morning as I sent my older two children off on the bus and later dropped my 3-year old at pre school, I couldn’t ignore the jitters. Like many parents are now doing after Friday, I gave extra hugs, extra kisses, and extra affirmations of love and adoration. My older two simply rolled their eyes, and my younger one reminded me that she did not want to go to the bathroom before school.
It is clear to me that at some point as a parent I learned the best way to make my child feel safe is to let them go to school, to a friend’s house, to a supervised activity. I love watching them walk into a community where they are valued and appreciated, and I love even more when they return to me with a big smile and tales of their adventures, their accomplishments.
In my training as one of Kim’s Gentle Sleep Coaches, I was lucky enough to learn about Kent Hoffman’s Circle of Security. Essentially, a baby … toddler … pre-schooler and so on can explore the world and come back to his parent. This push to go out and pull to come back defines the circle and clarified for me what a healthy attachment between parent and child truly means.
I know that teaching your child how to sleep can be a very complicated process for a parent. It can be fraught with anxiety and fears, making you feel even more fragile and vulnerable. Guiding your baby through the Sleep Lady Shuffle, there are probably times that you want to pull the plug and rescue your child as she works on learning how to self-soothe. Maybe she’s been sitting up the whole time, and she needs to make the choice now to lay down and go to sleep. It is pretty tempting to rush over and lay her down yourself, but as Kim reminds us, at some point she needs to do it for herself.
As soon as your baby understands that the crib is a safe place to be – she learns this by positive, consistent, and constructive affirmations and reinforcement from you – then she will stop being nervous or ‘afraid’ of her sleep environment. She will look forward to this safe place and wake up happy ready to share her day with you. In the meantime, it is our responsibility to bolster the confidence of your sleepers by acting calm and peaceful as we teach them to sleep. Believe me, this morning I had to work pretty hard to send my children to school without breaking down. Years ago, when I was sleep training my children, I had to dig deep and stay calm to convince myself just as much as my daughter that yes, she could do it.
I often hear from my clients that their favorite part of sleep training is the happy wake up in the morning and the delicious cuddle that often follows. As I write this, I keep thinking about how nice it will be to see my children when they return home from school to share their experiences. Maybe we’ll get to cuddle too. I need it!

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Photography by anonymous to you on Flickr