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2 year old not coping with my return to work. Help.

(10 Posts)
BlingLoving Wed 27-Mar-13 09:26:51

Sorry - Long, but I'm desperate.

DH is a SAHD but for the last few months I've not been working so DS has had both of us around. I went back to work a few weeks ago and I am already on my knees.

A bit of background: DS has always been a bad sleeper and we had some regression after he was ill in January which we were getting over. Then as I went back to work he also got a cold so I'm not sure how much of the problems we're having are related to that. But...

The main problem is that he just won't sleep. He won't go down at night no matter how tired he is. If we let him cry he stays awake until we go in, at which point he passes out on us. Until we do, he just sits in his crib alternatively crying/screaming and whimpering, "mummy" over and over again.

And then he's waking up and not going back to sleep at night, again either whimpering, "mummy" over and over or screaming. If DH goes into him he will calm down and eventually lie down and sleep as long as DH stays in the room. If I go in, he either screams as soon as I put him down, even if I stay with him, or at best, will lie restless and awake in his crib.

DH says that during the day DS constantly asks for me or looks for me, although he's not crying and upset. He's also not eating much which, for him, is very unusual as usually he loves his food. And he's generally a bit grumpy and unfriendly with DH, although I suspect that has more to do with tiredness than with anything else.

Has anyone else been through this? How do I reassure and settle ds?

AstonishingMouse Wed 27-Mar-13 13:08:46

Mine have all gone through phases of having a favourite parent to a greater or lesser extent. DS1 was particularly clingy with his Dad, DD preferred me. It's difficult to deal with sometimes, not nice for the parent trying to go to work with a screaming child clinging to their legs or for the parent left behind.
I guess you need to work on trying to get DS to sleep better first, so you can see if the poor eating and at least some of his upset at you being away from home improve if he is less tired.
What's his bedtime routine like?

gourd Wed 27-Mar-13 13:22:34

Sounds like he is unsettled by change in routine but that cant last - the new routine will eventually become the "normal" routine. In the meantime I think all you can do is just keep reassuring him with familiar routines such as bedtime etc, lots of attention whenever you are with him, and with favourite toys/comforters - does he have a night time comforer toy or teddy? Ours is 2.5 and has had "The Teddy" (she has many others but there is only one that matters) since she was 8 months, takes him everywhere and though he can cause problems as playgroup/opark with other kids being interested in him, actually he has helped helped her settle easily into the childcare setting and also into new playgroups he is a familiar item from home that she can alwasy have with her, as well as her settler/comforter when upset or sleepy. Daytime tiredness is difficult as it;s tempting to not ket them sleep inteh day inteh hope this will mean better nihts but I'm not sure this works - I think you have to allow a daytime nap to help improve his mood during the day (and enable him to be more active afterwards which inturn helps nighttime sleep) even if it's just a short refresher/cat nap for 30 minutes or so. Lots of physical activity in the daytime should also mean a better nights sleep. We noticed ours (2.5 YO) sleeps really wel (and eats well) if she has been to soft play for an hour, done a gymnastics session and had a walk to playgroup and back as well - but she will only do all this happily if she also has a rest/short nap around mid-day so I think you do need to find a balance between rest and activity.

gourd Wed 27-Mar-13 13:35:23

BTW I think sometimes the "only want Dad/Mum" thing is actually just procrastination - they dont want to go to bed so they will use any excuse. Ours is always telling us she wants Mum, but then when Mum appears, it's Dad she wants now.. Same as every morning she'll want to wear a particular pair of socks or want to have her nappy changed in the kitchen instead of her bedroom, but when we say, OK, that's fine, ou can wear which socks you like, or yes let's change your nappy in the kitchen, she gets upset as she didnt want us to agree with her - then she'll change her mind and want the opposite - I think it's just procrastination because she doesn't want to go out, she wants to stay in her pjs and play.. They do lkike to test out what will happen if and test boundaries too, so some of it is just down to that. I think at bedtime they are just seeing if they cant put it off for longer and testing out what will happen if they demand X. If you both stick to the same rules and limits I think they learn it does not matter which parent it is, the result is still the same - it's still bedtime. That's one theory anyway - unless you like playing good cop, bad cop!!

RubyrooUK Wed 27-Mar-13 13:39:08

I reckon everything is exacerbated by the lack of sleep. Try not to feel too crap about it - it will pass.

Now, bear in mind that my parenting style is "let's all survive this phase" rather than "let's be super disciplined". So I might put forward some suggestions that other people consider too lax.

Is there any way your DS would be happier in a bed, so you and your DH could get in and cuddle him in the night? My two year old DS1 doesn't sleep well but settled quickly when he has a quick hug. Both DH and I work and I think if a hug at night makes DS feel more secure, that's fine with me. He won't be two or want his parents this much forever. I'm mainly concerned with all of us getting enough sleep to function.

Another thing we have done recently is make a new routine with DS to help him go to bed (he NEVER wants to go to bed and begins his verbal campaign against bed early on in the day....). He had a couple of weeks screaming and getting out of bed for no obvious reason and in the end, we found a new routine. Now we do the same few books in bed each night followed by me turning out the light - which had been making him go completely nuts - and reciting The Gruffalo till he falls asleep, which is normally within minutes. Having a post-light-out activity to look forward to seems to really calm him down.

Both DH and I also talk about the routine a lot before we carry it out "first bath, then books, then we'll turn out the light and do The Gruffalo" so there are no surprises. Endlessly reinforcing the same pattern has helped him calm down about the whole experience.

Erm, not sure this is that helpful really but just in case as I know that work/sleep deprivation/concern about your child are not a good mix!

gourd Wed 27-Mar-13 13:41:31

If your child is not actually looking thin or undernourished I wouldnt worry too much about appetite fluctuations - our child's appetite varies wildly depending on daily/weekly activity level, growth and devlopment spurts and also viruses/colds (i.e. if they are teething or have a sore throat they will not eat much and only certain easy to swallow foods). You can use vitamin drops as back-up if you are concerned about nutrition when child isnt eating as well as usual. I only worry if ours turns down cake, pasta, grapes or yogurt as that means she is really sick!

issypiggle Wed 27-Mar-13 13:54:00

i've been a little harsh on the bedtime front, we set a bedtime @ 7.00 (we make this the time dd has to be in bed), and before that we have bath/shower or watch night garden, we then get ready for bed. get into bed and she picks a story and we turn her night light on and we read the story, and depending on the time we'll read another one if not we have kisses and cuddles and leave the room. we leave the room at 7.30.

when dd is having a 'madam' day we refuse to return to her room. you can tell if there is a problem. so unless we think there is a problem we avoid going back in.

its not ideal but we know shes safe, and she's not hungry/thirsty/needs a wee etc, so shes just trying to push it.

maybe with the separation, could you write a note in the morning telling your ds what you'll be doing that day, or even making a timeline (with pictures) so he has a slight idea what you are doing and how long you will be, i know a day to a child is like an eternity, but its thought

gourd Wed 27-Mar-13 15:01:19

We had some seperation anxiety stages (two sets) that resulted in a few nights of awfulness - luckily only lasted about4-5 days each time but god it was long enough! We opted for the least possible intervention that it took to stop her crying and settle, so at first this was going right into her room and hugging her, tucking her in with a kiss saying goodnight and leaving again, then we worked it down to just popping head round the door and saying "shh, time to sleep now" or similar which worked. Basically the minium it took to stop her crying each time (for a second or two) then leave room again. Think she just wanted to know we were there, but we realised that this might go on for weeks or months so we wanted to make sure we chose the least possible intervention that we were sure we could go on doing if we had to, plus we didn't want to go charging in and disturb her even more when she was really quite sleepy, and this did work - we also left it a few minutes longer each time before going back to her. The maximum time we left it was ten minutes of crying, (but actually she was very half hearted about the crying that stage, sounded more like she was just making an "Oooooo" noise just to see if we came running) before we went in and as I say it was literally five days and she stopped doing it completely and just went back to her usual happy self-settling (cooing, talking and singing to herself and waving toys about etc) so it worked for us. I think by age two some of it may be the child just experimenting and seeing what happens if they do X as well, so you dont have to feel bad about waiting a few minutes before intervening, or reducing contact time/intervention to bare minimum that it takes to get them settled.

We've had two episodes, so far, each lasting 4-5 nights and I think it was around 12 months then again around 18 months and also coincided with teary/clinginess in daytime so think it was seperation anxiety related night time anxiety. We also played boo/hiding andf seeking games and hiding objects so she learned that they were still there even though she couldn't see them - not sure if it really helped but we did only get 4-5 nights of it, so perhaps there is some merit in that idea...

gourd Wed 27-Mar-13 15:05:07

Does DH tell DS (only if/when he asks for Mummy) that mummy will be home for teatime or whatever to ease anxiery? Could he tell DS that "Today we are doing X, then it will be lunchtime and after that we can do X if you like and then Mummy will be home for teatime/bedtime". Might this help? Wouldn't suggest doing this unless DS actually asks for Mummy though, otherwise this might just make him remember Mummy isnt there.

BlingLoving Wed 27-Mar-13 20:35:19

Thank you all. I really appreciate the time you have taken to respond and the ideas.

Lots of good thoughts here and yes, we do try to stick religiously to the routine to keep it stable. Dh also reassures him whenever necessary that I will be back etc but I like the idea of some kind of visual / oral reminder - perhaps dh and I should get better at trying for a quick FaceTime call during the day or an exchange of pictures. I think he's too young to understand a time chart though. (He's not actually two yet. 22 months was too lengthy for my headline! grin).

I think he is just trying to push it a lot of the time. But sometimes he seems genuinely frightened, so telling the difference is hard.

I will also definitely give thought to the bed. We haven't done it yet because he can be a very restless and active sleeper and also because we were concerned that hes still such a sleep resistor that we would spend half the night putting him back in bed! However, I had been thinking that at the back of my mind because it would certainly be easier to give him a little cuddle or similar in the night. Currently dh lands up sleeping on his floor.

Thanks again. I can't tell you how much appreciate the comfort from your ideas.

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