Oh Boy! Co-sleeping, often referred to as bed sharing, is one of those hot button issues that receives as much hostility from those defending their position as breastfeeding does. And for most parents, even those who swore up and down that they WOULD NOT allow their child to sleep with them, it happens almost accidentally. Sometimes it’s just easier to nurse a baby when they are in bed with you. Or a young child has fears at night so you lie down with them. Or maybe, you enjoy the extra snuggle time with your little one. Even more common, whether parents admit it or not – is that allowing your children to sleep with you can be downright easier than fighting with a fussy toddler at bedtime night after night after night.
And for the record, ALL parents should know that everyone from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the Mayo Clinic are against co-sleeping due to the hazards that it can pose to your child. The question here is not for against bed sharing – but when it becomes unnatural, wrong, or just plain weird. Is there an age where a child should not sleep with mom or dad? Does the gender of the child matter? Regardless of how it starts, and how you feel about it – you know that at some point it has to end, right? But when? When are kids simply too old to sleep with mom and dad?
Let’s see what the experts have to say about allowing children to sleep with mom and dad.
In March of 2007, the New York Times published a research article on this very subject. The article believes that an older child sleeping with parents does not do enough to maintain a healthy separation between adults and children. And obviously, a 10 year old in the bed is quite a hindrance to martial intimacy. In the study, it suggested that children sleeping with parents can be responsible for destroying a marriage and even confusing children about their sexual identity.
Should a pubescent boy who wakes up every morning with an erection, be sleeping next to his mother? Should a young girl, perhaps one that is budding breasts or entering menstruation sleep next to her father? Most people would agree that allowing a 10 or 11-year-old child to sleep with a parent of the opposite sex is wrong or somehow taboo in today’s world. And outwardly, those who disagree with co-sleeping would likely be freaked out by such behavior. But to the family sharing the bed, all might seem cozy and completely non-sexual. However, it is slightly disturbing to understand WHY an older child would still WANT to sleep with their parents.
A study out of the University of Michigan showed that children who slept with their parents beyond the age of 2 – many into the preteen years, were developmentally stunted and even faced years and years of sleep issues later in life. A poll conducted by Mothering dot come also showed that 40% of moms believe co-sleeping should end between the ages of 3 and 5, while 34% believed kids between 6 and 8 should be given the red light to the parental bedroom door. Around 24% believed that co sleeping shouldn’t occur to begin with.
According to the Family Law Association, differences in belief on co-sleeping – especially as older, opposite sex parents are concerned is often a point of contention. And since there are no laws surrounding an age when children shouldn’t sleep in a parent’s bed, this becomes grey area. Normally, when it is brought to the attention of a family law attorney – psychological evaluations of the child are ordered to see if there are any issues of foul play involved. And subsequently, it turns bonding moments and co-sleeping into an issue of sexuality. Which for most people, it is not.
Bottom line is that at some point your child will NOT sleep with you any longer. Every family has a different arrangement and set up in place. There are tons of families who fall asleep in the same bed watching television every night. There are other families who keep the marital or parental door completely locked and off limits. What needs to be addressed are the issues that surround the co sleeping. If they are developmental in nature as it pertains to older children, then something needs to be done. If they are matters of convenience based on house size or bed availability – then there might not be a lot of options. What is most important is being cognizant of how ALL the parties’ involved – parent, spouse, and child – feel about the matter.
Still. And obviously, there comes a point in a parent child relationship when privacy should be respected and separation should begin. There also comes a time in a marriage where co-sleeping will greatly, if not gravely – affect the marital relationship. So deciding when a child is too old to sleep with mom and dad becomes a judgment call.
From the outside, it might seem creepy for mother and son, or father and daughter – or even daughter and mother and father and son to be sharing a bed into the pre-teen or teenage years. It’s certainly not ‘normal,’ at least as far as statistics show. But the closeness and ways that each and every family bond with one another are different, and every family has its own definition of what is right and what is wrong.
What do you think? Is there a certain age when children should no longer sleep with their parents?