desperate for advice about hysterical five-year-old

(16 Posts)
shorelines Wed 12-Mar-14 20:35:40

My daughter's dad and I split up when she was just over 2.5. Since then she has lived with me 4 days a week and her dad 3 days a week. She has struggled with the handovers from me to him, on and off, for all this time. I thought that she would get used to it and be ok but she never really has. I am starting to feel really low about it as we have tried loads of different ways to manage it and make it easier for her, but v little has changed.
Today, I could hear her screaming for me all the way down the street and her dad said she carried on for another 20 minutes when they got home. Although she is generally a really happy child, these times make me feel that she is going to be permanently scarred by us separating, or the way we handled it, or whatever it is we have mis-managed!
I would love to hear from anyone who has had similar experiences and can offer some advice.

Minime85 Wed 12-Mar-14 21:44:00

hi. I'm so sorry this sounds awful. I really dont have any advice to give but hope someone comes along soon who can. how old is she? just wondered if she was at school now? or if not nursery at all? could u ask how she's getting on at any of these?

I used to have this with DS and his dad. Still have some issues now, but we find the best thing is for his dad to pick up from nursery rather than from me. DS is much calmer that way.

May09Bump Wed 12-Mar-14 23:18:26

Does she have to go three days a week, sorry understand it may be a necessity.

My husband has worked away for months (i know not the same situation) but have found my 5 yr old really clingy to me atm. I think the school in the mix is also adding to it. Friends with a more stable homelife than we have are also noticing their 5 yr olds being difficult / upset too. Whilst understanding it must be hard for her re spllt, some of it could be a normal 5 yr old experiencing changes / becoming more aware.

Don't be so hard on yourself - you have tried to make the change as smooth as possible. If you can maybe try less time with dad, books about split families etc. Kids are hard and i'm sure she will be grateful you have tried so hard to give her a relationship with her father when older.

shorelines Thu 13-Mar-14 07:43:12

Thanks everyone - no, she doesn't have to be at his three days a week but when we split we felt it was the right/fair thing to do for us all (he was working four days a week at the time so that he could look after her one day; I worked three days a week and looked after her two). I am beginning to think this divide just isn't going to work but her dad wants to try everything else before going down that route.
She's five and started school last year. She is having a brilliant time and there are no separation difficulties. It was the same at nursery.
I think if he picked her up from school it would at least make the Tuesday handover ok, but his work hours prevent this.
I feel like I must be missing a trick somehow and that there must be a way for me/us to be with her at pick up time that would make it feel ok for her...

Monetbyhimself Thu 13-Mar-14 09:05:13

It's very obviously not working and I think your Ex is really cruel to insist on a situation that causes a little girl so much distress. I think so many chops snd changes of routine are bound to be upsetting and I think in situations like yours, the parents desire to get their fair share of the child can be detrimental to that child. It's a huge amount of change for a little girl. Her whole world has been rocked and she's bound to be suffering from some short term separation anxiety. She needs time to adjust. Right now this arrangement isn't working for her. Long term it may be a suitable arrangement but for now I'd come up with alternatives. Perhaps she goes to daddy every weekend for a while ? 'Weekends/no school' are a more solid concept for a 5 year old to grasp. Then maybe a couple of evenings a week he makes her dinner, takes her swimming etc but brings her back to you overnight?

tealady Thu 13-Mar-14 09:19:42

Is she happy when she is with her dad and does she talk about why she finds it difficult? It sounds as though you think it is just the handover process, rather than her not wanting to go at all, in which case maybe you just need to break the pattern by changing the routine in some way.

MaryPoppinsCarpetBag Thu 13-Mar-14 09:29:50

I very much doubt it has anything to do with the length of time she's with her dad unless she continues to be distressed while she's there. If you change to every weekend with dad, you lose out on quality non-school time with her.

Handovers can be very upsetting and confusing for children, particularly if you are feeling anxious about them. Even if you don't say as much, children are very good at picking up on it. Sometimes it's hard to know why - one of my DC used to absolutely howl at handovers. That lasted over 6 months and then one day suddenly stopped. Another of my DC was always generally unhappy at handovers and it's taken a long time but it has settled down and is straight forward now it's all done through school.

Is it possible to do handovers through school or an after school club or similar? My DC found that much easier. Other than that, a neutral location could be better - park, supermarket etc and ensure that handovers are as swift as possible. It seems odd to be firm with a child at times like this - I remember wanting to scoop my eldest up and just run away but in time with a gentle but firm "it's a daddy day today, I'll see you on xxxday" and then leaving, holding my emotions in til I was well out of sight worked.

FrogbyAnotherName Thu 13-Mar-14 10:20:37

All the advice I've read, for any age DC, promotes handovers via school, nursery or similar in order to provide a transition period.

I never really believed it until I saw the change in my DHs DS when his handovers changed from through school to direct from mums home to ours. It was quite remarkable, and very distressing.

I agree that the schedule itself is definitely worth persevering with - the advantages of two loving families of equal status cannot be overestimated - but transition distress is not unusual and I'm sure that changing the dynamics will help.

MaryPoppinsCarpetBag Thu 13-Mar-14 13:48:17

Just came across this while looking for something else -

karenwoodall.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/the-dandlebear-bridge

Russianfudge Thu 13-Mar-14 16:20:09

My dsd used to be like this, there were a million other issues going on with mum but one of the things that she said made it hard was the fact that she'd be at school, then get home with mum, settle down, them have to leave to go to dad's house.

What me and my ex do is take responsibility for "our" days if that means childminder, after school club, friend's house etc. it seems odd on some occasions where I know dd is in childcare and I'm at home (not a lot as I work) but it means she doesn't have that stress and when she's home after her day, she can settle.

Minime85 Thu 13-Mar-14 17:34:40

I agree about ex picking up from school his days. he needs to sort that out. and maybe reduce contact for a while til she settles? just to two days at his not the three?

Holliewantstobehot Thu 13-Mar-14 17:45:17

My ds really struggled with handovers to his dad so I started driving them to his nearest supermarket and doing handover in the carpark. Other days he picks them up from school. It has made it better although he still struggles a bit with going from mine to his dads. It's worth trying.

FrogbyAnotherName Thu 13-Mar-14 18:50:57

maybe reduce contact for a while til she settles? just to two days at his not the three?

But the OP says her DD settles after a little while - why should she miss out on time with her Dad when it's the transition that's the problem? If the length of contact was causing distress, then it would continue during the contact - at bedtime, when the OPs DD upset etc.

(The cynic in me thinks that some people will look for any excuse to reduce contact but that's probably my own baggage)

shorelines Thu 13-Mar-14 20:43:47

thank you to everyone who responded. FYI, she is rarely unhappy at her dad's - tonight she and I were walking home and she knocked on her dad's door (we live in the same road!) so he would come down and give her a hug. I will definitely push for him to pick her up from school on the tuesday. The weekends generally do seem easier - I had thought it was because she's not so tired but maybe it's because the handover usually happens out and about somewhere. We'll get there!

Minime85 Thu 13-Mar-14 22:58:32

sure things will settle. so hard to see them upset. mine are better at weekend too but I usually drop them at ex house rather than him pick them up. and he does own school pick ups.

I merely put reducing contact down as a suggestion. my own dcs are building up their contact with their dad as they have found the adjustment hard so ex and I doing it by their pace. but in between they facetime and ring as they wish.

nice your dd knocked for a hug. hope things get better for you smile

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