If having children in bed with you isn't working out, for whatever reason, you might have to help your child through feelings that are keeping them so close. (I blogged about this in detail in Why I Helped My Daughter Feel Safe To Fall Asleep Alone.)
A good way to do this is building up their sense of safety and strong connection. If you need to build connections before bed, here's a fun way to do it – an amazing bedtime game I call ‘The Bed Door.’
Start your bedtime routine earlier than normal to give you time to play. Read a few stories and get snuggly, and then, when it’s time for them to sleep, tuck them in a playful, inviting tone, tell them you hope they will “stay in their bed.” (Really, you are suggesting to them the possibility of getting out of bed).
As they break free of the covers, you become the ‘bed door.’ In a playful way, try to block your child from getting out of bed. Put up some resistance, but don’t use force or overpower your child. The key is to make it challenging for your child, but always let them win.
Go for whatever brings the giggles. Repeat. And repeat.
Last night we played this and my daughter and I invented all sorts of different powers:
- ‘Grabber power’ where I would use my hands to grab her, and then she would be so strong that she would escape.
- ‘Lock power' where my arms would lock around her to try and lift her back into the bed, but the arms would make a ‘mistake’ and accidentally unlock. I would act all annoyed with the arms and say, ”Hey! Come on arms, you are not meant to unlock!”
- ‘Strength power’ was my daughter's power, where she was strong enough to knock me over.
- ‘Rolling power’ when I would wrap her up in a duvet and try and roll her back in bed.
We had many variations and really got each other laughing with our new power ideas. When you try this, follow where your mind takes you and see what makes your child laugh.
The aim of the game is always to ‘try’ to get your child back into bed in a fun way, and to use resistance but not force. It should be played when you are in a good mood and aren’t feeling time-pressed and until you feel they are ready to stop and settle. The game shows them that they can be in control of the bed and bedtime, as well as evaporating fears they might have about being in the bed by themselves.