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SD struggling to sleep at ours

HogwartsIsHome's picture

When my stepdaughter first started sleeping overnight at ours, she was a fantastic sleeper. In the last 6 months though, it's all gone downhill. She's almost 6 but has started co-sleeping again at her Mum's. There's not a chance of her co-sleeping at ours nor do we want to stay with her until she falls asleep. We don't know what to do though and are at our wits ends. She will cry and shout "I want mummy" for up to two hours each night. I can't cope! My partner is ill today and I know as soon as I get home from work I'll have to cope with the nightime routine.

I really don't know what else to try with her. She's almost 6 for goodness sake. She shouldn't need babying to sleep and she should also be used to the concept that we don't have the same rules at ours. Her mum let's her get away with blue murder as she can't handle her temper tantrums so now SD hates being at ours for that reason as well as the fact we refuse to co-sleep.

What on earth do I do??


futurobrillante99's picture

You soldier on through the tantrums or maybe get her a body pillow with a silky or fuzzy pillow case so she feels like someone is there with her.

HogwartsIsHome's picture

So you don't think we're doing her an injustice by not pandering to her?

I'm childfree. I am clueless when it comes to kids. I asked elsewhere and the response was basically that we're awful human beings for not giving her what she "needs"

A body pillow is a fab idea!

futurobrillante99's picture

You would be doing a disservice to her by catering to her whims and giving into her tantrums.

Make a big deal out of her picking out the pillow and case - it might work - it might not. But it's something to try.

Dontfeedthetrolls's picture

"So you don't think we're doing her an injustice by not pandering to her?"

Not at all. In fact I think you'd be doing her a disservice to pander to her. She doesn't NEED to sleep in your bed or you to hold her hand for hours on end while she goes to bed. She NEEDS to learn how to fall asleep. BM is going to have it worse as the child get's older and doesn't get out of her bed. You can't go to sleep away camp or college with the child. 6 years old is more than old enough to go to bed in her own room.

hereiam's picture

I guess the question is, what does she need? Is she afraid of the dark? Afraid of being alone? Both?

A body pillow is a good idea.

When my SD was young, she shared a bedroom with her brother at BM's, so when she came to our place, she wanted the lights on because she was afraid of the dark. I wrote her a children's story about nighttime, why it happens, we couldn't see the stars without it and that it's nothing to be afraid of, blah, blah, blah. I don't know if it helped or not but DH thought it was great!

We also gave her a little flashlight and told her if she really felt afraid, she could turn it on and look around the room to see that there was nothing to be afraid of. We really encouraged her to not sleep with it all night and told her that when the batteries wore out, that was it. I'm not sure if she was really afraid of the dark or she just wanted her dad to sleep with her.

Yes, she cried at first, and yes, we let her. It was hard but I don't think we would have done her any favors by giving in to her. I just really did not want her to grow up thinking she could not sleep alone. Fat good it did, BM raised her to be a co-dependent, anyway.

One of my friends made her daughter a magic wand to sleep with, because she was afraid of monsters, and it did wonders!

There are things to do besides pandering to her. If others don't agree, tough, they can do what they think is right with their own kids.

futurobrillante99's picture

We also made a spray to scare monsters away.

With my Autistic son, we would talk about a dream he could have when he was sleeping and he would add lots of details. It helped him to look forward to falling asleep and distracted him from whatever he had been ruminating on.

justmakingthebest's picture

Also try a lavender essential oil diffuser in her room, helps with calming and sleep! You can get them pretty inexpensively on amazon!

justmakingthebest's picture

Also try a lavender essential oil diffuser in her room, helps with calming and sleep! You can get them pretty inexpensively on amazon!

Daisymazy2's picture

I would always do the same routine with my kids...bath time, story time and bed time.

Try diffusing lavender oil (works great for sleeping) and/or install a night light.

You have to soldier on through the tantrums as well.

HogwartsIsHome's picture

She always has the same bedtime routine at ours but we know it's different to what BM does.

We do teeth, pjs, two bedtime stories, a goodnight hug and kiss then it's lights out. But we know BM does teeth, Pjs and then they both lie down together until she falls asleep.

We've tried the night light idea. Without it it's "too dark", with it it's "too light".

The compromise is leaving the door open a little and the landing light on. But we'll only leave the door open if she stays in her bed.

Dontfeedthetrolls's picture

I don't know exactly what to tell you but I've been there. SO's little one co-sleeps with his mother until she gets some new guy in her bed. He's 5 now. She will post complaints all over social media. She has pictures of him up past midnight on school nights and complain about how he won't go to sleep unless he's in bed with her but she doesn't seem to make any real effort.

We do not allow co-sleeping in our home nor will I hold his hand while he goes to bed. We did our best to make their room a comfortable place (let them pick out their own bedding, nightlight) and set a bedtime routine. The kids clean up, put on PJs, brush their teeth, we do story time, and they get a bedtime movie (I don't agree with this but it was a habit that existed long before me). Sometimes this doesn't work. When it doesn't there are steps we can take. First goes the movie. Then the door to their room has to be left open. I've found that on the worst nights we'll have a crying child for about 5 minutes who will then pass out in his bed. We have had to set consequences such as no video games.

At first it was really hard but we knew we were in the right and after making a plan we stuck to it. The screaming lessened over time when we didn't respond to it. That's why after 5 minutes not the kid just passes out. However we do get flare up's any time BM changes the way she does things.

It p*sses me off to no end that this woman has no ability to parent, flaunts her failures all over the place like its a joke, then yells at my partner calling him the bad parent. 6 is a trying age and on top of it you stated she just started co-sleeping again. Make your plan and stick to it. Be aware of age appropriate behavior and do talk to her if you can about why she wont going to bed just in case she has some sort of serious fear or issues with nightmares. I would do this at a time other than bed time while the child is busy playing or something. If there is a fear plan with her on how to help with it... Maybe a special night light or boogie man scaring teddy. If she's having serous night mares the could be other issues that need to be looked at.

If there is no valid reason other than she wants things the same way tough luck. Be firm and get her use to the rules. Kids are capable of learning the rules in multiple places. They will act very different depending on location. A child is different for parent A, parent B, the babysitter, grandparents, teacher, and so on. They will push to try and get things to all be one way or there way but if you are firm it should get better. If it doesn't speak to her doctor.

HogwartsIsHome's picture

It sounds like things were really tough. It's not fair BM is co sleeping until she finds a man. It's no wonder SS is up late when things change for him!

The consequences thing is a good idea. She's just had a tablet for her birthday which she's allowed in the morning. We've set it up so it turns off at bedtime and turns on at a reasonable time of the morning. Perhaps we'll have to try the if you don't go to sleep you can't have your tablet in the morning.

lieutenant_dad's picture

YSS struggled to sleep through the night when we first bought our house because he was used to sharing a room with OSS and dint know how to cope with sleeping alone. He has trouble sleeping to begin with, so the new noises at night frightened him, too.

I think a body pillow, maybe a weighted blanket, a night light, and/or a white noise machine would do wonders. Also, try tiring her out before bed so she doesn't fight sleep as much. You can also try lavender scents that may soothe her sense of smell, too.

Worst case scenario, let her cry it out. She has to learn to self-soothe, so once you go through the routine and try to make her comfortable, leave her alone. Don't go in and check on her, don't tell her to stop, nothing. If she leaves her room, put her right back. When you go to bed, lock your doors she can't come in. The less you respond to her outbursts, the fewer she will have.

HogwartsIsHome's picture

We've tried chatting to her about it and she just says she can't sleep without mummy. We thought by now shed have grown out of it or gotten used to how things are at ours but sadly not. She's been like it for about 6 months, ever since they started co sleeping again.

She says the only thing that would help would be if she could sleep with mummy. Some nights I just want to say well sod odd back to mummy then - though obviously this thought is not voiced!

And yeah of course, SO is the shit parent according to BM.

hereiam's picture

And yeah of course, SO is the shit parent according to BM

She's the one causing a sleep issue for her kid. There are different thoughts on co-sleeping but it sounds like it could be a real problem for your SD. It's not for every situation or kid, not if they start relying on it.

futurobrillante99's picture

Just tell her she actually CAN sleep without BM because SHE DOES...every night she's at your house. Tell her she WANTS to sleep with BM and you understand that but she's growing up and wanting to do grown up things. One thing that will help her grow up faster so she can do those things is being a brave girl and sleeping on her own just like BM does when she's visiting daddy.

Also, tell her BM will be so proud of her that she can sleep alone like a big girl. What mom, when asked by a 6 year old, "Mommy, are you proud of me? I slept all alone like a big girl" would say, "No. I'm not proud of you."

Dontfeedthetrolls's picture

I've had kids tell me they don't care because they don't want to grow up. I've seen it go to extremes.

I knew a female who was in a wheel chair with a feeding tube because she absolutely refused to take care of herself. Countless doctors had looked her over. There was no physical reason. We worked with her for months and actually got the feeding tube removed and had her almost walking. A few years later I saw her as an adult. She was back to wearing footy pajamas again refusing to do anything with her mom pushing sludge through a feeding tube. She did not want to be independent and years of mental therapy had done nothing.

thinkthrice's picture

Children need to learn how to self soothe by age 2. Co-sleeping interferes with the child's ability to self soothe.

I understand some cultures/societies co-sleep but that is usually out of sheer necessity (dangerous predatory animals or venomous insects, lack of space etc.)

thinkthrice's picture

We went through this with skids. Chef was just allowing them to fall asleep on the sofa, etc. after an exhausting night of watching kiddie mindless pablum shows.

They would all huddle together because the Girhippo was telling them that big, bad Thinkthrice would kill them in their sleep--or something to that effect. Whatever trash she was PASing them up with was doing a number on them.

When older skids stopped coming and it was just YSS coming to visitation (BAD idea--with multiple skids ALL should do visitation not cherry pick the skid) he would have "sleeping issues" and would often fall asleep with anime blaring. I put a stop to that. I'm sure that before the Girhippo met StepDaddyBigBucks, the were ALL co-sleeping.

Solidshadow7's picture

Mommy tantrums at bedtime are extremely common with skids. It is a manipulation tactic used by children to delay bedtime. SS4 used to do this whenever we tried to put him to bed at an appropriate time for a 4 year old, but never if we were out and he was still up at 10 or so, because then he'd actually be tired. In fact, some children do this in intact families too, if daddy is putting them to bed they will scream for mommy and vice versa, because it takes time and they get to stay up longer.

So, stop worrying about comforting, catering to (or pandering to) the kid and treat it the same way you would any other tantrum or manipulative behavior. We usually go with "If mommy was here she would also tell you to go to bed." In your case you can try "well children need to learn to sleep alone whether or not mommy or daddy are willing to sleep with them." If SS continues to cry for mommy?

Well, mommy's not here, so we're not really sure what we can do for you. Anyways, goodnight. And we walk out of the room and let him carry on. This usually results in him screaming "I want my daddy" or "I want my SM." Then we either come and calm him down for a few minutes, or just let him scream depending on how frequently this happens. And yes, depending on how unruly he gets we have taken away bedtime stories or screen time for the following day.

He very rarely does this anymore, only every once in a while and only for the first night back after he's been with his mom for too long because we assume that she lets him stay up if he carries on. Not only that, but the screaming now magically immediately stops as soon as we leave the room.

We used the handle it the same way you do, by trying to talk to the kid or calm him down. It became a guaranteed nightly occurrence with all kinds of screaming and carrying on sometimes for hours because SS WANTED us to talk to him and calm him down and offer to let him call mom to say goodnight and feed him strawberries and offer to let him sleep in our room or have dad lie in bed with him while he falls asleep and etc etc etc instead of just putting him to bed. You are rewarding the behavior with what you are doing, which will increase its frequency and duration. So stop. Treat this the same way you would treat any other type of undesireable or inappropriate behavior in a six year old child, because that's exactly what it is.

HogwartsIsHome's picture

Gosh she's being like a total spoilt brat and he's pandering to it.

She's kicking, screaming, stomping. And he keeps going back up to her

I give up

twoviewpoints's picture

You said 'he keeps going back up'. Where do you and Dad have your bedroom from hers? Is it on the same floor?

I'm going to do the , what most parents would call 'bad parent' and advise you to go with whatever you can get to work. Do not drug the kid (not even with an over the counter) and especially without having let the mother know you have done so. Just terrible practice without having communicated the possibly with the other parent.

But if letting the kid sleep downstairs on the sofa in a sleeping bag means everybody else gets to skip the two hour drama temper tantrum, meh, let her sleep on the sofa. If letting her have a tv with a video cartoon in her room means she will knock off the fit and drift off happily, meh, let her. If she wants her bedroom light on, let her. If she wants to have her bed full of stuffed animals or even a living kitty, let her.

What she can't do is have Mommy come over to sleep with her. What she can't do is leave and go home to sleep with Mommy. Yes, I am aware that many parents disapprove of allowing this or that at bedtime. Yeah, yeah, tvs don't belong in bedrooms and a kid shouldn't need to sleep on the sofa and on and on the should and shouldn't drone on.

Do you want to sleep? Do you want a peaceful hour or two after sending kid to bed to relax as a grown-up? Sofa, tvs, lights. None of those things are going to harm the child. No, it may not be the way many believe to be proper parenting, I get that.

You have a choice. A peaceful bedtime under non-traditional means or two hours of screaming crying and stomping (boy, does this kid have her drama queen act down pat :O ). She is doing exactly what her BM is teaching her to do. You can't change what BM does at home. All you can do is find your own way to help the child be comfortable enough to knock the sh*t off and relax enough to be able to sleep. If that means breaking good parenting rules , break them.

I like the body pillow suggestion. Smile

Dontfeedthetrolls's picture

Still needing that like button. I completely agree with Twoviewpoints here.

As a child if I couldn't sleep I was allowed to go sleep on the couch. What I was not allowed to do was keep everyone up. As an adult if I can't sleep I go sleep on the couch. This isn't often but I found it comforting as a child and the same as an adult. As a child it was sort of the central space. I felt safer because I knew if something happen my parents could get to me quicker. I also didn't feel alone because everyone went through it.

I think one of the big worries about sleeping on the couch or in the living room in general is that it will disturb the rest of the family. Nope. I got disturbed lol. My mom got up EARLY and when she did didn't matter if I was asleep or not she went about her norm...If not louder to wake me up on purpose. I was required to move any blankets and pillows I brought out with me back to my room as soon as I was awake. As such it was like I was never there.

As an adult there are two reasons I sleep in the living room.

1. I'm in pain and find the couch comfortable

2. is I feel lonely. My partner works nights and after the kids leave it's kind of hard and two quiet. I have almost NEVER slept completely alone before I was 22. I shared my room with my sister. Moved to college and had a room mate. Even when the room mate moved out I was comforted just by being in the dorm.

Maybe your SD is struggling because she's scared of being alone. Very valid if she co-sleeps with BM. The living room might be helpful Or go with the cat cause I also agree pets help.

Now dealing with SO's kids I don't like that they get a movie at night BUT it honestly works. They are normally asleep after half an hour. I go in before I go to bed and turn it off. They know by now that they get 1 film and that's it which is the compromise me and my partner made. He use to let them watch as many as they want which I do feel kept them up BUT they know now that it's one and then I'm coming in and turning it off. They haven't tried to go behind me yet because if they do I will take the TV plug and be done with it.

Maybe one of these will help.

HogwartsIsHome's picture

Her bedroom is upstairs, as is ours. But at the time we were trying to watch a movie downstairs as we go to sleep a few hours after her.

BethAnne's picture

My sd likes to have some background noise to sleep to (as does my husband) so we let her either have the radio on or listen to an audiobook. Something similar might distract your sd enough to get her to sleep.

Your husband could also just try sitting down with her during the day sometime and saying that she is a child and she needs sleep so that she can enjoy her next day and asking her if she enjoys crying and having a tantrum every night. Tell her that you really want her to have a nice bedtime routine so that she is happy when she goes to sleep and then you could ask her what you can do to help her have a good routine. If she says she doesn't know then present a few different ideas given here and let her pick the ones that she likes the sound of. Then say to her that you will do your best to make these things happen but that she has to do her best to go to sleep peacefully without the tantrums. Getting her input and buy in and changing up her routine might help her to invest in different behaviors and break this cycle.

I used to have screaming matches with my sd getting her out of bed in the mornings and then we sat down and had a similar chat and she said that she wanted me to sing the theme song to one of her favorite shows in the mornings to help wake her up. It was ridiculous but I did it, for months. It helped immensely. Partly I think it was also because it helped me to change my attitude to a more gentle one in the mornings as no one wants to wake up to someone who is already in a bad mood anticipating the expected battle.

oneoffour's picture

When in doubt, melatonin. They come in gummy form. If BM asks it is a vitamin.
My grandson is a horrible sleeper mostly because his mother (DD) and his father (STBX SIL) would rock him to sleep. When STBX SIL left DD found out what a freaking monster she has created. Her Dr suggested meltonin gummies. They work a treat!

You just needs to work out what works for her to go to sleep at Daddy's. Body pillow, melatonin, audiobook ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Dontfeedthetrolls's picture

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell BM it is a vitamin.

This can be harmful to the child and she can use it in a court room to remove custody of the child.

I'm going to guess as normal the CO says that parents must inform each other of medical information concerning the child. Not telling her you are giving the child a sleep aid (regularly) is going against that order. If it's a one time thing no big but your going to be messing with the kids ability to sleep on their own. If you get the child sleeping well at your home but she still struggles at BM's you set the child up for instability and its just wrong in general.

Yes Melatonin is for the most part safe but it is still 'medicine'. It can be overdosed on and it can have side effects.

Where I work a doctor must prescribe melatonin to the patients. Given it's a pretty basic cover all like Advil but still. BM would be in her rights to request a doctor prescribe melatonin and it wouldn't be hard at all to get that doctor support but to just lie to her flat out is a very bad idea.

HogwartsIsHome's picture

I really wouldn't go down the route of drugging the child.

Just to update, I managed to get her to calm down within about 10 mins last night and she slept right through and didn't wake us up until 10 am - which just goes to show how desperately she needs a good night's sleep.

Initially we said to her that if she doesn't stay in her bed, we will be closing her bedroom door as she can't keep getting up. She was getting out of bed, shouting that she wasn't going back to bed and causing a huge scene like the night before. We had to close her door a few times before she got the message.

I spoke to her calmly and said I know she doesn't like the door closed and that she can have it open just as long as she stays in her bed. I also said to her that whilst I know she doesn't *like* sleeping without mummy, it doesn't mean she *can't* sleep without Mummy. We spoke about how she manages to eventually fall asleep and so whilst it's not nice being alone, she can do it. I also spoke to her about how i don't like sleeping alone. When SO is away with work, which she knows is quite frequently, I have to sleep alone. I told her I don't like it but I manage it by hugging my teddy that he bought me and I know that she can manage it too.

This morning then I asked her if BM sleeps with any teddies and if so does she think it'd help if she asks mummy if she could bring that teddy with her to remind her of mummy and help her sleep. She thinks it would help so SO is going to speak to BM about it.

I really hope we can get through this phase soon. It's utterly draining. Thank you all for the suggestions and for keeping me sane. We're going to try a few of them out.