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Old 02-23-2015, 06:56 PM   #1
shutan
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beg or prayer Sleep issue

I'm a single dad with custody of my 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, who routinely and randomly walk from their bedroom into mine, wake me up every night (usually between midnight and 6 a.m.) and want to jump into bed with me. I've tried nearly everything under the sun to break them of this pattern, especially since I'm a light sleeper and have trouble falling back to sleep, but nothing has worked. As a result, I'm chronically sleep deprived and in need of somehow taking back the night so that I can rest and be a much better dad.

My sense is that they're both reacting to the emotional trauma of having an alcoholic mother who lost all legal rights to them a few months ago and has had to have supervised visits in keeping with a court order. They have only slept under the same roof as mom and dad within the past year for about five weeks over the summer right before I moved out with the kids to an apartment. We've been separated for just over a year, she spent 4 months in rehab, but still struggles with sobriety.

HELP!!! ... Sleepless in L.A. :-( Bruce
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Old 02-23-2015, 07:11 PM   #2
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Default Re: Sleep issue

personally, I would go for a official/"legal separation" agreement separating all stuff and responsibility, and get the home back to you and the kids, thus getting the childrens rooms back with their life/friends/schedule/etc... That would be my first step.

good luck, glad you found us, many more probably have even more info, and probably better at articulating it than I .

---------- Post added at 07:11 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:09 PM ----------

P.S
I got a family King size, so when My 4 boys would crawl in, it did not wake me so much, and learned about "attachment Parenting" just something to research.
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Old 02-23-2015, 07:19 PM   #3
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Default Re: Sleep issue

Thank you for the reply!

I should add that I'm trying to force the sale of the home we shared in order to recoup some heavy financial losses. My wife inherited the house we shared from an elderly man she was a caregiver for, but it's old, filthy and in need of many repairs. It was an unhealthy environment for all of us, full of clutter and emotional chaos. My kids are thrilled with the new and clean apartment we now live in, which is simple and spare in comparison and full of more love and stability.

I have a queen-size bed, but they still wake me up, and they move around or make noise, so it's a tough situation.

I will research the topic of attachment parenting.
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Old 02-23-2015, 07:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: Sleep issue

It is trauma related. My kid did the same at that age. Are they in counseling?

The reality is 10 years from now you will look back and WISH you could get this time back. I know I do. Even of it meant no sleep.
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Old 02-23-2015, 07:57 PM   #5
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Default Re: Sleep issue

here's a place to start
http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/night
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Old 02-23-2015, 08:04 PM   #6
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Default Re: Sleep issue

Interesting what you said about it being trauma-related. Someone in my weekly Al-Anon meeting advised me to find a child psychologist who specializes in trauma. I do currently have at least my son seeing a child psychologist on their health insurance plan, since he's the harder of the two when it comes to this emotional attachment and neediness. Every piece of his advice hasn't worked. So I'll give it at least one more session before looking into other counselors.

Meanwhile, I know everyone says they long for those years of innocence, and I joke that I can't wait for them to be in college!
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Old 02-23-2015, 08:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: Sleep issue

I joked too at that age. My kid was a handfull. Now all I want is that time back.
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Old 02-23-2015, 11:09 PM   #8
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Default Re: Sleep issue

Ah, yes. Every parent whose kids have grown up say the same thing. For me, that seems like a lifetime away. Thanks for your goodwill and good humor! :-)
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Old 02-24-2015, 12:07 AM   #9
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Default Re: Sleep issue

Ugh...tough stuff for little ones to deal with. Thankfully they have you to provide stability. I don't know if this applies to you, but I think it's easy to feel guilty for being partly responsible for putting the kids in this situation (alcoholism is your ex's part, but choosing her as your kids' mom is yours). I say this, because I think that sometimes makes us CPs more lenient than we would be if there were two healthy parents. I feel like an ogre most of the time with my daughter - I made a conscious decision early on (when I divorced she was 1.5 years old) that I would hold the line. I figured without a father around (he's out of the picture), discipline and structure were what she'd miss most. Personally, I'd rather err on the side of being too firm versus too soft. All that to say...don't beat yourself up for needing to put your foot down and be firm about their needing to stay in their own beds. It's the old adage about putting yourself first in order to be healthy enough to take care of your kiddos. For tactical ideas, unsure...maybe Super Nanny or something like that? They're old enough to reward good behavior - maybe give them a treat each morning after a night they stay in their bed? Also, something that worked for my dd when she was missing me at preschool - I gave her a necklace which I said was the "Magic Mommy Necklace." If she missed me, all she had to do was hold it next to her heart and I would know and send her back good feelings, etc. It worked like a charm (pun intended). Maybe give them a new blankie or stuffed animal and tell them that it's a magic thing which will keep them safe and help them sleep? Best wishes to you and your LOs!!
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Old 02-24-2015, 11:50 AM   #10
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Cool Re: Sleep issue

Wow, what a thoughtful reply, Joie! I really appreciate it.

I always err on the side of discipline, whereas my alcoholic wife is lax in that department because she, too, was raised in chaos and adopted that behavior as a grown up (as well as inherited the addiction gene from her late mother). Kids crave structure, and while they may not like to be told what to do, they intuitively appreciate it and in a way I think it reminds them how much they're loved by the parent who's willing to make some pretty unpopular decisions.

As for a rewards system, I have a good-behavior chart that allows them to get stars for behaving well, doing extra homework at school (my son) or unusual acts of kindness, etc. Our child psychologist recommended that I do NOT give them stars for expected behavior, such as sleeping in their own beds.

But he did suggest I reward them with their favorite treat. They got all excited about that, but then didn't follow through because jumping into bed each night has become such a knee-jerk reaction to their insecurity and emotional neediness.

The thing that has worked best so far is my weekend nanny's advice about putting our futon between their beds and sleeping there. We all slept best under that scenario, but our child psychologist admonished me for it, saying it represents a step backward. I'm now at a point where I might trade places with my weekday nanny at night. She lives 7 minutes away and is a trusted friend, but she would need to bring her daughter, who's my daughter's age and they're great friends. I dunno. Could be a slippery slope.

Any other thoughts?! And where do you live, by the way? I'm in L.A. :-) Bruce
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Old 02-24-2015, 12:43 PM   #11
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Default Re: Sleep issue

I co-slept with my DD2 until she was three (she was in a crib until 1; dad moved out when she was 1.5)--then she graduated to the big girl bed. my DD1 always slept by herself and was fine. DD2 was hesitant at first, but she has lots of "lovies" (a.k.a. a million stuffed animals and blankets) and soon fell into the routine. They now know they can climb in bed with me on the morning on the week ends, but it has to be 7am, no earlier! (DD1 can tell time)

My DD1 has a blanket and a specific lovey. My DD2 doesn't have anything specific, seems to rotate every few days or so, but that helped.

I wish I had a better answer for you, but it's really up to you, and I don't think it's "a step backward" to co-sleep for a while. your kids have been through a lot! you have to do what's best for your family. as my pediatrician says, there's arguments for both sides, but at the end of the day, you need to sleep, and you decide what's best for YOU (as a working single mom, i chose SLEEP). Everyone will have advice; you know your kids the best. It's a balance. Maybe now is the time to do futon time, and later is the time to put your foot down. Whatever you decide doesn't mean you are failing or being less firm, it means you're making the choice that will help your kids now. It doesn't mean you're set in stone with a certain sleep arrangement forever.

Maybe you can do a counseling session all together some times, to help. And if you're not feeling it with this particular child psychologist, maybe it's time to get a different therapist.

Lastly--how are the kids doing at school? That is a pretty big barometer for measuring how they're holding up with the trauma and the changes. If they aren't acting out at school, that's a really good sign. you helping them get through this sleep situation over the next few months or however long it takes will just be one bend in the single parenting rollercoaster.


good luck!
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Old 02-24-2015, 01:20 PM   #12
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Default Re: Sleep issue

Thanks for your two cents about co-sleeping. If all other suggestions fail, then I'll simply sleep on the futon in the coming months and then establish a new routine down the line. You're right about one thing: do what works best for ME, even if it's a Band-Aid. I must be able to sleep. This is a huge problem.

My kids are actually thriving in school, though my son might have ADHD or a learning disability. He was ID'ed among several kids in his Kindergarten class for additional instruction during the week because he's struggling to identify certain letters and numbers. It also could be that he's distracted or wants to play rather than learn. He's being formally assessed.
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Old 02-24-2015, 03:20 PM   #13
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Default Re: Sleep issue

that's good news about how your kids are doing at school--and getting an assessment for your son is key in getting him the help he needs early on! (although sounds like you already know that!)

i meant more behavioral/social--if they are doing okay on those ends at school, that's an assurance that they are doing well despite the circumstances. school is where it would show up even more so than at home, so that's a good sign they are doing well there.

i guess if i were you, i'd choose sleep! once you're able to be fully rested, you can take on the ensuing challenges (your son's assessment, selling the house, finalizing everything, tackling the sleeping that will work for YOU and your family).

i still remember the sleepless life i had from when DD2 was a baby and then the stress of divorce...get your sleep! you need it. :-)
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Old 02-24-2015, 04:12 PM   #14
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angel Re: Sleep issue

Thank you again for all your encouraging words and wisdom!
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Old 02-01-2017, 11:36 PM   #15
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Default Re: Sleep issue

Maybe they're really from trauma or maybe they also have messed up their circadian rhythm.
You can try and let them follow a sleep routine. Or maybe let them help rearrange their bed. Pillows and a warm blanket might help, trust me.
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