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Step daughter sleep routine

Stepmummy7's picture

My step daughter has just turned 7 years old, and spends the night with us 3 days every other week. She has been spending the night (not this exact schedule) since she was 3. When she is at our house, she sleeps in her own bed, in her own room (which is decorated, how she likes it etc). However, when she is with her BM, she is still held to sleep every night in her BM's arms, and shares the same bed as her. Because of this, my SD really doesn't like having to sleep in her own bed while she stays with us. My SD's pedeatrician has discussed with BM, that it would be healthier for her development if SD slept in her own room and bed, and we have tried to address it on multiple occasions but this hasn't happened. 

We have tried so many things - sleep reward charts, different night lights, reading hours of stories to her, singing, staying in the room until she is asleep, watching her favourite tv show in the mornings if she sleeps the night in her own bed etc. It is so frustrating, because during the day SD doesn't mention her BM at ALL, is totally happy and contended, and she has an amazing relationship with me, her dad and baby brother. But bed times are a constant struggle, and after years and years, there has been no improvement, and still tears, wanting her other mommy, wanting to sleep in our bed. We can't be consistent as we only have her a couple of nights at a time, and BM doesn't help in any way, 'rewarding' SD for spending the night with us, and almost feeding into and encouraging SD's dread of spending the night ('I know it's so hard, it's only for 3 nights, can be in my bed soon' etc). If anyone has any advice or suggestions I would really appreciate it. My 7 month old baby is also an awful sleeper, only sleeping in 2 hour intervals, so I am already very overtired from holding and nursing him, and just wish I didn't have to struggle with SD's sleep issues on top of that. We really want to ideally have more time with my SD, as we love her being with us, and want her brother to grow up with her around as much as possible, and she misses us and cries when she has to leave, but bedtime is a constant battle. Please help :( 


CompletelyPuzzled's picture

There really isn't much you can do about her co-sleeping at BM's house.  It is not grounds to get BM in any trouble.  And, she is entitled to parent any way she chooses, even if I agree that 7 is too old for co-sleeping.

The only thing I  am confused about is why you are the one struggling with her.  If it is such an issue, have your DH deal with SD's bedtime.  That way you can focus on your DS.  My DD struggled with wanting to co-sleep until she was about 6

  We set a bedtime routine and were firm with her.  It took several months, but she finally got used to it.   She hasn't tried to sleep in our bed in almost  a year.  I know it is a tough struggle and I wish I had better advice, but if BM isn't open to changing their sleep routine, it makes things much harder. 

Stepmummy7's picture

Thanks for the advice. I agree there isn't any way we can force or persuade BM to not cosleep, even if it is in the best interest of SD. I guess everyone has a different approach to being a step parent, but for me, SD is just as much my child as my DS. I give equal attention and love to both of them, and my SD has a very close relationship with me. DH does help out with the bedtime routine, but sometimes he will be holding the baby as I have had him all day etc, and sometimes has evening work meetings. For our house it very much isn't that SD is 'his' child, we are all a family together, if that makes sense, so I will always be equally/sometimes more involved in bedtimes. 

Monkeysee's picture

I agree, let your DH deal 100% with getting SD to bed. I’m not sure why the BM would want to hold her in her arms every night to get her to sleep, that sounds disordered to me, but you’ve got no control over that.

What you do have control over is how involved you allow yourself to be. Ultimately, she’s not your daughter, and this is your DH’s problem. It probably feels like your problem too because she’s in your house & it affects you that way, but it’s really his problem to deal with.

Also, as someone who was awful at going to bed for my own mother (and not because she wouldn’t cuddle me to sleep, that’s so freaking weird at 7 years old), the only thing my mum got to work was to have consequences every single time I refused to go to sleep. And be consistent with it. So if he says no tv/tablet/whatever if you’re not in bed by xx time, then there’s no tv/whatever if she doesn’t listen. You can reward her if you want to when she actually starts going to sleep, but there needs to be consequences when she doesn’t. Talking to her, reading umpteen stories, sleep charts... none of that worked for me either. The only thing that ever did was being punished for my behaviour. Find her currency & stick to it.

All that needs to be done by your DH though, if one of you is going to be the bad guy let it be him. His kid, his problem.

Stepmummy7's picture

Again thanks for the comment. We do sort of do the consequences thing - if she doesn't sleep in her own bed and gets up lots in the night, she isn't allowed to watch her favourite show all day as a consequence (but we try to more frame it as a reward for sleeping well, rather than a punishment for not). I've just replied to another comment, but again for us, SD is just as much my child as my DS, and I am equally as involved in caring for her. I definitely wouldn't want SD to ever feel like she wasn't part of the family, or that I loved her brother more than her. I have been around in her life since she was 1.5, but have only lived permanently in the US for 3 years. DH does help with bedtimes, but we still find it challenging between the two of us, and juggling the baby's needs. 

Monkeysee's picture

I’d do a lot more of the consequence thing, ‘sort of’ honestly won’t cut it. Again, I’m saying this as the kid who was a horrible sleeper. If she knows she can get away with what she’s doing, she’s going to keep doing it. Sometimes kids need to learn the hard way & rewards don’t always get the message across. 

Stepmummy7's picture

She actually isn't bad once she's asleep. She's learnt we don't tolerate her coming and waking us up, unless she's had a nightmare or is sick. It's just the battle to get her to sleep, whining, tears, constantly complaining about having to sleep in her bed, not fair etc. I think we are going to have to start a shorter more strict bedtime routine, and have to let her cry a bit. But we also don't want her to dread staying (though again during the day she never wants to leave). Thank you again 

tog redux's picture

Before the co-sleeping contingent gets here - I think it's unhealthy too.  A 7-year-old should have zero trouble sleeping alone. BUT, as the others said - this is your DH's problem, not yours.  Unfortunately, it's a tough one when BM lets her sleep with her.

Be prepared for BM to emotionally cripple this kid at every stage of her life - this isn't going to just be about sleep.  Clearly she has no problem meeting her own needs at the expense of your SD's appropriate development.

Monkeysee's picture

BM’s like this are just wonderful aren’t they. Seeing their children as extensions of themselves instead of their own people who need to be nurtured & supported. Let’s cripple the poor kids instead!

tog redux's picture

And they never see it - they point to the dependency they create as the reason they need to continue it. With no awareness of how they are affecting the kid.

Stepmummy7's picture

I agree with BM being emotionally crippling - she has extreme over attachment issues to SD, is single, has no other children etc. She has refused repeatedly to let us have more time with SD as she doesn't want to relinquish control. 

Yamaha_Girl's picture

My bf and I have been living together in my home for over 2 years. I have a 11-year-old son and my bf recently got access to his 8 1/2-year-old daughter. She's been coming to our house since March and since June we've had her from Friday after work until Monday before work. 

The problem is that she refuses to sleep unless he's in her bed with her. If he leaves, she wakes everyone up by calling for him. He can't even be in another room cooking or watching TV. He refuses to say no to her.  Who wants a boyfriend who sleeps with his daughter for half the week and has to go to bed at 8:30 on the weekends? LOL I'm fed up, hurt, and very angry that this is my life now. I didn't sign up for this. She won't listen to me either. I already told him once that maybe he should find his own place.

Help!  I don't want to end the relationship, but I haven't slept well in the last 5 weeks and this is ruining every weekend for my son and I.