‘My ex-husband still sleeps with our 8yo daughter in his bed’ -Kidspot

I kept telling her to sleep in her own bed at Papa’s…but she says, “Mind your own business.” I feel like she’s getting too old for that now. What should I do?

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My ex husband still sleeps in his bed with my almost 8 year old daughter. She has her own bed and bedroom to herself and I’ve kept telling her to sleep in her own bed with dad’s… but she says, ‘dad says mind your own business’. I feel like she’s getting too old for that now. What am I doing?

Laura and her daughter Sofia. Source: Instagram @itslauramazza

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Laura’s advice

Most mothers have a wonderful love for their children and an innate desire to protect them. Your concern tells me that you are exercising this need to protect your daughter from harm, and that is wonderful.

I don’t know what caused these concerns and there could be several possibilities. Do you have reason to believe that your ex would harm your child? Do you have a specific routine of your child sleeping in their bed that you think could be disrupted if your child goes to their dads’? Are you worried she’s becoming too dependent on sleeping with an adult?

Without knowing your exact reasons, I will address them all.

If you have reason to believe your ex is harming your child, there are certain things you can do. First, in an emergency, you must call the police (000). Unless your child is in immediate danger, I would recommend speaking to an attorney involved in your current case if you have one, contacting your state’s child protection agency, and getting through the National Home and Family Advice Bureau Family Violence Sexual Assault Counseling Service at 1800 RESPECT.

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I would also suggest having a calm and open conversation with your daughter. Don’t force her to communicate, and make sure you don’t seem to judge what she’s saying either, as this can turn children off. Let her know that you are a protective and safe person in her life who she can share everything with. Listen without investigating (leave that to the authorities as you can jeopardize an investigation) and let them know they’re not in trouble.

At times, when we have experienced our own trauma, we can often project our worries and childhood experiences onto our children and become tired and overly cautious in the face of such scenarios. And while that kind of vigilance is always a good thing, sometimes the scenario isn’t our worst nightmare, and our projection can do harm when it comes to being on friendly terms with our ex and creating a space to be in our child feels guilty for what feels like having a comfort (such as sleeping in bed with a parent). This state of caution can be exhausting, so talking to a trauma counselor can help you deal with those constant feelings of flight or anxiety and ease your anxiety.

SSome experts agree that sharing a bed as they get older can be detrimental to a child’s independence. Source: iStock

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The way we are raised shapes the way we are parents. For your ex, he might have shared his parents’ bed until he naturally outgrew it, and for you, bed sharing might not have been a part of your childhood. So you are expected to have different views on what is appropriate and what is not. Some experts agree that bed-sharing at an older age can be detrimental to a child’s independence, but it really only becomes a problem when it becomes a problem. If your child never sleeps alone, cannot attend sleepovers, and is having trouble sleeping alone, then discussing this with your ex and seeking advice from a pediatrician would be the right way to go.

Some children can feel anxious and find comfort in sleeping with their parents, and after a breakup, children can develop fears of abandonment, so having a parent around at night can alleviate their anxiety. I would discuss this with your ex and your child to see if your child’s behavior has changed and then discuss this with a child psychologist.

If none of the above issues are or become an issue, I would leave it alone. Many parents share the bed, and many children naturally outgrow it. If it doesn’t harm her, then don’t harm your relationship with your ex by making a big deal out of it.

Children need to see their parents parenting together to grow up safely. So my advice to you? If nothing is wrong, let this one go.

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All the best,

Laura x

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