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DD(5) is exhausted and unhappy and I don't know how to help her

(54 Posts)
Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 17:26:14

Apologies for the long post. I'm on mobile, so can't guarantee paragraphs will show.p

DD has been going slowly down hill for a long time now. Since the summer at least, but it's hard to be sure when it started.

She's struggling with sleep, having previously been one of these "out like a light, sleeps like the dead" children. She now falls asleep ok but wakes in the early hours of the morning (2-3am most days) and, despite trying for hours, can never fall back to sleep. I don't know if this is the cause of her unhappiness or if it's the other way around, but feel it's relevant.

Behaviour-wise, she is brilliantly behaved at school. There are no issues with bullying (though there were some in Reception, which were resolved and have not resurfaced).

At home, she is rarely outright naughty but she cannot seem to listen to any instructions, and consequently gets in trouble a lot. She is also very snappy with her sister (2) and often does unkind things completely unprovoked, or shouts at her for no reason. She's also been known to whisper instructions for DD2, knowing full well it'll get her in trouble if she follows them. It is exhausting constantly asking her to do the same basic tasks, or telling her off for doing something she knows she's not supposed to be doing (little things like not using felt tip pens when sitting anywhere but the table).

But, when she's told off, she just bursts into tears, or barely holds them back. Like it's a) a surprise to her that she's being told off for pinching her sister) and b) as if we have screamed and shouted at her - this is very rare, but I have shouted on occasion, like when she was deliberately trying to slam DD2's fingers in the living room door for the 3rd time that morning.

She was such a ray of sunshine a year ago. Happy was her default setting. She was always willing to give something new a go, really keen to be kind to others, always laughing and giggling about something. And now she's just...not. The sleep deprivation has made her look quite ill and she just seems so deeply, deeply sad all the time. We have tried to make sure we do things just for her, take time to chat and do the things she loves, but she just continues to be more and more unhappy. I feel like we are failing her and I don't know what more we can do.

Has anyone had similar? I don't know where to turn and I need her to get better.

RicStar Tue 14-Jan-20 17:32:17

First off have you given her de worming tablets? If not I would try that, random but it fits a lot of her symptoms. If it is not that then I would try and keep a very very routine life, as much fresh air as you can take, may be one formal out of school activity max, plenty of one on one time away from her sibling - assuming you have a partner so this is possible. If not special parent time in e.g. the evening. A very consistent behaviour management scheme (I am terrible at this I keep starting things and switching even though I know mine need consistency). If nothing improves as the weather gets better take to gp in case of anything else physical.

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 18:17:51

That's interesting about the working tablets - are these symptoms of worms? She isn't itchy at all.

We have a very firm expectation and reward system for behaviour as DD2 responds incredibly well to it.

Unfortunately 1:1 time is trickier now as twins were born 5 weeks ago, but OH is taking each of the big girls out for an afternoon on alternate weeks, and we make sure each has some 1:1 here and there during evenings when we can.

AnyFucker Tue 14-Jan-20 18:19:40

I would see the gp and get her general health checked out

RicStar Tue 14-Jan-20 18:28:09

Ah I didn't realise you had twins too - it's probably change/emotional stress - my dd now 7 got like this when ds2 (dc3) was born - she was also 5 it was a lot going on for her - and she needs a bit more one on one time than her brothers in many ways but gets less unless I am careful. She is very active and social but it wears her out and her batteries run flat - with snapiness and bad behaviour at home.

The worms cause sudden waking up - not always associated with itching - so it's worth investigating a simple physical cause (we are always getting letters at school and I think around 1 in 5 kids have worms at any one time - lovely thought).

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 19:00:22

Ric that fact about worms is delightfully disgusting grin. I will source some worming tablets.

I'm not sure it is completely due to the change for her. She was going this way before we even told her we were having another baby (and we told her after 20 weeks - somewhere around September). Obviously, the new babies are not helping things at all, though. My hormones are making me feel horribly, horribly guilty for having them at all at the moment given how bad things have become with DD. She could really do without them being around while she's going through this.

Haworthia Tue 14-Jan-20 19:01:08

You way you describe it - going slowly downhill - is quite concerning and I would definitely want to rule out a medical cause first. Lack of sleep massively impacts upon behaviour too.

I’m sure the arrival of two newborns has also had a huge effect, but like you say it’s been going on since the summer. I’d definitely take her to the GP.

How is she at school?

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 19:59:22

I really thought it was just a phase but it's been over 6 months now - and that's a really long time for a 5year old.

She's very well behaved at school, tries hard, showing good progress. She struggles a little with the prescriptiveness of year 1 compared to Reception, as she'd rather spend time drawing, telling stories etc (she's very creative like dad, an illustrator).

This said, she is exceptionally good at masking negative emotions. The bullying issues in Reception started before Christmas and nobody had any idea until the summer term. She seems to not want to upset others by being upset IYSWIM, and it took her teachers reassuring her that they absolutely wanted to know when she didn't feel safe or happy, and regularly reminding and checking with her for her to start volunteering it. We are all more vigilant about this now.

It's one if the reasons I'm so concerned about her. She was being bullied by 3 children at school every day for months and showed us nothing. How awful must she feel for it to be breaking through like this now?

ElusiveOrangeTwirl Tue 14-Jan-20 20:01:19

Would that not be the time that she found out you were pregnant again?

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 20:03:34

The whole summer holiday she was this way, so at least 2 months before we told her I was pregnant. It may have been before then, even. As I say, I dismissed it at first because she was nearing the end of term and probably tired, it was probably just a phase etc. So I don't know exactly when it started.

Digestive28 Tue 14-Jan-20 20:07:29

I would try and tackle sleep as everything else described sounds like my DD (and me) when tired - snappy, emotional and just a general mess.
If you drive somewhere epic would she even nap or similar?

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 20:12:31

Last time she slept in the car was a 13 hour drive to Skye. She doesn't really sleep in the car unless it's overnight. We have had a few 5pm bed times to try to kick start her sleep, as I've found in the past that a good night's sleep tends to cause another one, but no luck so far.

Blueskies32 Tue 14-Jan-20 20:23:02

Have you tried massively praising and rewarding her when she does a glimmer of something good and positive. Maybe do this as much as you can. Don't underestimate the impact of her new siblings- the fact you didn't mention that in the beginning post maybe reflects how you aren't considering this possibility enough?

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 20:41:57

We do praise for good behaviour, and have been making a concerted effort to do it moreso since we first noticed this in the summer, as we much prefer being able to praise the bad behaviour out of the kids than punish it.

To be honest, I didn't mention the twins because I assumed it would be jumped upon as the reason for her feeling this way when it cannot possibly be the case due to the behaviour starting before then. I didn't want a load of responses saying the cause must be the twins. Sure, their arrival (and the run up) will be contributing to the issue. But the fact of the matter is, this behaviour started before she knew I was pregnant and had been going on for several months before we told her.

I am acutely aware of how their arrival has impacted the family and if I had known we would be facing into this 9 months down the line, we would absolutely have delayed having more children/stuck at two.

itsboiledeggsagain Tue 14-Jan-20 20:47:05

Have you tried giving her calpol at bedtime?

I have a 6yo with long term fatigue issues and recently have startrd to give paracetamol before bed and she is sleeping through more often and seems a teeny bit better.

Does she sleep on her own? My 4 year old was always a terrible sleeper but now has a sibling in with him which had made a big difference as he doesn't cry when he wakes up, just rolls over and goes to sleep again.

Blueskies32 Tue 14-Jan-20 20:50:16

Yeah sorry my post wasn't massively helpful and I didn't mean to make you feel worse, if it is the big changes in family life it may just help understand her behaviour and will pass, not easy though, you must be flipping knackered!

Callisto1 Tue 14-Jan-20 20:59:30

It sounds to me like she is struggling with something emotionally and it's having an impact on sleep and general behaviour. It could be more than one thing. Maybe the bullying last summer, the new siblings and having to share her parents more are all becoming too much for her? Maybe there is something new happening at school?

I have a DD that sounds similar to yours, she bottles things up in formal environments like school and then explodes at home with tears and bad bahaviour. She didn't wake up at night but wet the bed when she started school at 5. I think these were all signs of not being able to cope with what's happening around her.

I know you said 1:1 is tricky but I think she really needs it. Do you have any grandparents that could help look after the younger ones for a bit? Or could you do special bedtime where you play some games and chat? Maybe if she has a good relationship with her dad he could do the 1:1? To reassure her that she's loved and give her time and space to bring up anything that is bothering her. My DD would never say anything if asked but if we chat to her 1:1 about other things she often opens up and tells us stuff that bothers her.

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 21:03:35

We've tried her in her own room, and sharing with DD2. She prefers not to be alone, but it doesn't seem to make a difference to the sleep. We even tried having her share the big bed with daddy (I'm in a separate room with the twins at the moment as I'm EBF and have been there since around 7 months when I was the size of a small whale).

Blueskies the twins aren't actually too awful sleep-wise. Much better between them than DD2 was on her own blush. It's so frustrating to know I can't be there for her the way I want to be, not that I have any idea how I can help her anymore anyway sad. I just want my happy little girl back.

FraglesRock Tue 14-Jan-20 21:14:56

What a shame. Constipation? People always say no but you can be regular and backed up. I'd go to the doctors, book in a week and do a proper sleep diary to show how little she's getting as it's so easy to be dismissed.
What's she like if she sleeps at grandmas for example.

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 21:17:19

Calli we are currently 2hrs away from the nearest relatives. She's very close with dad (he was a SAHP before she started school) and we do maximise 1:1. She gets half an hour minimum every evening, plus usually chatters to me while she draws in the kitchen while I cook dinner. I don't think we can do much more than that, when you consider the weekends too. DH also occasionally takes her out for dinner on a Friday to Pizza Express or somewhere.

Unlike your DD, we tend to find she needs permission to talk about anything that's worrying her, so we make sure she has a chance to tell us anything that's bothered her every day. Obviously, we also talk about what was good today, as we are keen not just to focus on the negatives.

trilbydoll Tue 14-Jan-20 21:30:49

My mum gave me Frankincense essential oil to put in the bath, it's meant to be for comfort. It helped DD1 for a while.

DD1 went through a phase of seeming to be really sad and disappointed, like it was the worst thing ever she got stuck with us as parents hmm at times I felt like I was doing some kind of pick me dance!

We talk generally about how we can only help with problems if we know about them and remember times we have helped - sometimes it takes a few days but then it dawns on DD1 that we might have a solution for her.

Spanneroo Tue 14-Jan-20 21:38:37

Off to bed now as the twins have gone down, but I will check back in the morning. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions.

I will see if I can get a GP appintment in the morning too, just to rule out anything physical.

Awkward1 Tue 14-Jan-20 21:41:40

She might only need say 11h sleep so waking at 7 bed at 8pm.

I definitely find my eldest doesnt sleep well due to school.
Yr 1 is a lot harder. Though suited dc1 better.

Let us know how the deworming goes. Think my 2 may need it but probably wouldnt take the medicine. Cant take when bf or give to babies though.

Apileofballyhoo Tue 14-Jan-20 21:48:42

How much sleep is she getting? 6 or 7 hours a night? I couldn't cope with only 6 or 7 hours every night myself.

GP immediately. And try a weighted blanket.

GoodStuffAnnie Tue 14-Jan-20 21:59:20

I would definitely get her a general health check at GPs. As you say do it tomorrow morning. Take a diary with you.

Maybe also do a nit treatment.

Have you asked her what she needs regarding the sleep? Say mummy can help you in lots of ways and give her lots of ideas. Be very patient with her when she’s talking children take a long time to form an answer.

Also you could do the same with school. Write down a v creative list of what she could be worried about. Don’t hold back. I was older than your dd but I was terrified my mum wouldn’t pick me up and I made up all sorts of things (tummy ache bullying). She could be worried about something that to you seems tiny and silly but to her is massive. Be open minded about everything. She might hate her school shoes for example.

If it’s nothing physical it will pass you just have to keep trying different things. Maybe just trying not to worry. Say when you wake I’ll leave you a juice and a biscuit and leave a magazine out. No big deal. Mummy’s always here for you.

You sound like an amazing mum. Really thoughtful and caring. It doesn’t sound like the twins and I can understand your appreciation about posting. Xxx

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