I'm not concerned about the fact she physically hurts herself by jumping the gate, she is as tough as they come. She screams so loud every time I walk down the stairs and is up the gate within seconds. I just worry about long term mental issues. My elder daughter has never been a problem. I put them to bed at the same time, seperate rooms and allow my 5 year old the light on as the younger one can't see her room. Either my 5 year old, my wife or i will read her a quiet story and we make it clear that the elder one has gone to bed. But the second we move away from the bed, she is crying for a 'cuggle' and as we leave the room, the screaming becomes deafening. We have been hard with her on this issue but, it seems to re-occur every couple of nights. Am I doing the right thing?
First: all people are different and have different needs. Do not use the needs of one person to determine the needs of another.
What is going on in your child's mind and emotions is unique to her. Some may tell you that you are being manipulated, but I would say that child needs a lot of touch, and close connections with her parents especially before going off on her own into the dark scary night - for what ever reason. Give it to her.
Our children slept with us from the time we brought them home from the hospital until they wanted a bed of their own. Each had their own needs and time of departure to that independence. It was not always easy, as one of them took up to an hour of crawling around between us before he could fall asleep. At 22 months, I feel that it is important that a child KNOWS that they are loved and their individual needs will be met. At a older age those apparent needs may turn into wants and you can tackle that at that age.
There may be several alternatives to just locking her into her room, that may lead to your final goal of getting her to sleep alone.
Would it be very bad for the sleep of the older child to let your younger one sleep in the same room? I had a hard time moving my oldest son out of our bed to his own room, but it was relatively easy to move my middle child to the lower bunk under his big brother's bed. But my kids were older than 1 when they moved to their own rooms.
Could another option be putting a mattress down on the floor of your room or of your older child, and letting your younger child leave her bed to go to sleep there when she wants? If she feels she can go to you when she needs to, she might not be so upset when put in her own bed. For some time she might immediately go to the mattress, but eventually she would stay in her own bed longer and longer if you read her stories there and made a pleasant night routine. Good luck-- time is on your side!
I will confess that I have never faced quite this issue, so take my opinion with a large bag of salt.
First, lose the gate. It's not accomplishing its purpose. You might get something for it from a garage sale.
Second, establish an evening routine designed to encourage sleep.
- Get the kids to play strenuously for a continuous hour or so after supper.
- An hour before lights out, pop her in a warm bath.
- Once she settles down, the combination of physical exhaustion and body temperature changes should encourage sleep (or that's the theory, until the plan meets up with an actual child).
Co-sleeping works wonders - probably a sleeping pad or some such on the floor at the foot of the bed. Every couple of months, try to establish her in her own room, or better yet, with her sibling.
I'm not saying this is your best long-term option, but it will) get everybody some good sleep. Some kids are not ready for that kind of separation. I don't know of any studies on excessive crying causing emotional damage, but it certainly makes sense.