EXTINCTION: METHODS TO NEVER USE
The more the number of families I support increases, the clearer it becomes that my work has to do with attachment, that is, empathy and relationships, more than with sleep itself.
But what does attachment and empathy deals with sleep?
Talking to families, I think it’s important to always start with the basics of sleep. I want to first make sure that all the basics are known so that respect to the physiology of children’s sleep is gained.
Adopting a holistic approach means ensuring that the environment favors sleep, that natural rhythms are supported and that there are predictable habits that precede it.
When we sleep we are in a vulnerable state, we feel we need protection and closeness with people we trust, this need in children is much stronger because they do not know how to rationally manage the transition from wakefulness to sleep and they ask us to accompany them.
The more we focus on attachment and connection, the easier sleep generally becomes.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where independence is praised, a society where too often allowing our children to need us or depend on us is judged negatively. We delude ourselves that they can or should learn to self-manage as soon as possible.
But addiction is what actually fosters independence.
Attachment is characterized by seeking or maintaining closeness. Basically this means that attachment is an instinct that pushes our children to seek our presence and to be close to us.
So, if mother nature’s plan is for children to be close to their parents, why do we spend so much time fighting this desire? Why do we push our children into separation?
When we fight this instinct, we unintentionally risk to make sleep more difficult for our family.
If, on the other hand, we tune in to our children’s attachment needs by satisfying their search for closeness and care, we could take a completely different approach to sleep.
Night time is often the biggest separation our children face.
By empathically communicating with our children, we can make sleep – and the separation that comes with it – easier to manage.
This is why I never use separation-based techniques or strategies. Separation for our children is one of, if not THE most difficult, things they face.
So, the question then becomes:
How can we make sure our children feel safe and confident in our presence and closeness (not just physical, but emotional), so that sleep doesn’t become a stressful time?
Children need to trust us and depend on us in order to grow in a balanced way. A satisfied need does not reappear.
Accepting a need, however, does not necessarily mean satisfying it! It is also part of our role as caregivers to set boundaries with firmness and authority but also with love and empathy. For example, it is not up to our children to decide what time they will go to bed.
We adults must make these decisions by establishing rules and limits because when these are not present, children will take the initiative by going to seek these limits on their own.
When we relate to our children with empathy and respect, showing true understanding of their problems or difficulties, listening actively and open to dialogue, we are giving them confirmation of our presence, our attention and therefore their importance.
If we constantly and confidently anticipate and satisfy their emotional and emotional needs, they will be more likely to relax knowing that we will continue to do so and that they do not need to look for a way to console themselves.
We focus our attention on empathy, attachment and relationship, rather than treating sleep as a behavior (it is not) by looking for a technique or method to manage it.
Trust, collaboration, empathy, respect and love are the keywords to deal with the theme of sleep and in general, any topic that concerns our little ones.