Good Morning America, and Sleeping with Our Kids

Written by Dr. Carosso

What happened?
You may have noticed that, despite announcement otherwise, I did not appear on GMA last Wed. It was disappointing given that the interview was taped and the segment was ready to go but, as I was informed later by the Producer, at the last minute the segment had to be shortened due to time constraints. Guess that’s life in show business.

What would have happened?
If I had been interviewed on GMA, the topic was pros and cons of parents sleeping with their kids; I was supposed to be the “expert” speaking on the potential “cons.” Not that I am totally against kids sleeping with their parents. God knows my kids have far too frequently snuck-in and we’ve been too tired to fuss about it (with no harm done and, in fact, it can be a nice bonding experience). Moreover, as you know, kiddos who’ve had a bad dream, or aren’t feeling well, may wind-up sleeping with their parents, and I doubt any “expert” would describe that as remarkable or damaging.

So what’s the problem?
Seems I’m treading on thin ice here, because some parents get really sensitive about any negative comments regarding regularly sharing the bed with kids. I was recently quoted in the Huffington Post in that regard and subsequently called, by one of my admirers, as myopic and ethno-centric. Well, I’ve been called worse (and expect more of the same after today post), so here it goes.

The Parent Trap(s)
Scenario:
-Child has bad dream or isn’t feeling well
-Parents indulge child in parent’s bed
-Child later finds other reasons to sneak-in
-Pattern of behavior is quickly established
-Parent can’t get child out of bed This is an all-too-common scenario. Not to mention an infant who presents with colic and can only be put-to-sleep in Mom’s arms, in the parent’s bed. Next thing y’know, the child is three years old and still in Mom and Dad’s bed. I know about this one first-hand. Believe me, it was no easy task to get my daughter back into her bed.  

Another scenario: Single parent wants some company, so indulges child to share sleeping quarters. Parent later gets married; you guess the rest.

What parents really want
After discussing this issue with parents for over 20 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of parents do not want their kids in bed with them.  Need I mention the intimacy-thing; and that it’s hard to sleep with kids (they’re squirmy and kick…)?  However, parents don’t know how to get them out without subsequent emotion, tantrums, and upheaval.  I should post next time about how to do that.

What’s best for the kids
Okay, feel free to call me myopic, but children can learn a lot by sleeping on their own. These posts are supposed to be brief, so I’ll cut to the chase: the act of falling asleep, and falling back to sleep, requires the ability to self-soothe, which is a skill that comes in handy even during the day. I’ve seen countless kids who appear more self-confident, secure, and calmer after finally learning how to remain in their own bed and sleep through the night. I’ve seen parents who appear happier too, which is another plus for the kids. 

Don’t want to forget to mention: research suggests that SIDS rates are significantly higher for children sleeping with their parents. One would think that there is at least some danger of rolling-over on an infant or toddler.

Good Morning America revisited?
Maybe someday I’ll get on that show but, in the meantime, I covet and appreciate this wonderful audience of remarkable parents and individuals who put their heart and soul into caring for kids, and who actually take time out of their busy schedule to read these posts.  I take this writing seriously, and hope you find them worthwhile. God bless.  

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).