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I need a reminder that it will get better

16 replies

PoppyStellar · 23/07/2017 22:39

DD has always had issues with sleep. I have had loads of advice from lovely people on this board and have tried pretty much everything. We had got to a relatively tolerable point where I stayed with her til she fell asleep in her room (this usually took 20-30 mins after stories, cuddles etc) and she had an 'emergency bed' in my room which she would come in to in the middle of the night when she woke up. This was most nights and for the last twelve months was practically every night.

However, over the last 9 months or so issues at bedtime have got progressively worse. She would throw complete tantrums once upstairs, hurl herself across the bed, scream shout etc, and this coincided with wanting to know lots more about her birth parents and why they couldn't look after her. This was something she only wanted to know about at bedtime. She would get really upset and say that she didn't want to feel like this and she didn't why she was so angry. We did lots of talking and life story work during daytime hours but this didn't really seem to help.

I got in touch with LA post adoption support last year and eventually they arranged DDP which we have just started (now a few weeks in). She is seeing the therapist for the second time next week. When I tell DD things will get better she says they won't and she doesn't believe anything can change. Things seemed to come to a bit of a head a few weeks ago when she starting banging her head at bedtime saying she didn't want to feel like this and she wanted to get rid of these thoughts. Ever since then bedtimes have become more and more horrendous. It is taking between 1-3hours to get her off to sleep. During this time she has tantrums, stresses herself out totally about not wanting to close her eyes, never being able to sleep, wants me physically close but pushes me away quite firmly when I try. Then comes back for closeness when she's a bit calmer. Bedtimes are utterly exhausting. I moved her bed out of her room and into mine so she's physically right next to me. She eventually drifts off holding my hand or hugging me. I feel so sorry for her because she does not want to be this little ball of rage she becomes at bedtime. I feel sorry for myself because I'm a lone parent, I'm bloody knackered and I don't know what else to do.

She's such a sweet, kind hearted and amazing child the rest of the time. I wish I could scoop all the anger out and throw it away for her.

RL friends (other adopters and civvies) have heard this all and have been lovely and sympathetic but bloody hell it's hard going night after night after night.

Not quite sure what the point of this thread is other than to vent a bit and ask for a bit of reassurance that it won't be like this forever

OP posts:
Blossomdeary · 23/07/2017 22:53

How lucky you are that there is post adoption support available to you - a close relative adopted and there was just nothing - nothing at all, in spite of the fact that the children had had a seriously bad start in life and had huge problems - so I am very glad that this is there for you.

How old is your DD?

NoMudNoLotus · 23/07/2017 23:02

Bless your heart this sounds so tough.

I'm sure you have done this but have you tried taking the emphasis off sleep at bedtime ?

I work with a psychologist ( I'm in mental health ) and he often says that it helps to reassure them that sleep will happen when they are ready and not to try to force it .

Does your DD have any trauma issues around night time ?

My DS has had terrible seperation anxiety in the past and I have put mindfulness sleep mediations on his room until he falls asleep - they have them on Audible.

I really would ask for a referral to a paediatrician in your position - they can be really helpful in these situations- and can refer you into paediatric nurses who specialise in sleep disturbances.

Please don't go through this on your own Flowers

annoyedand · 23/07/2017 23:03

Yes I was
Going to ask how old she is.

I'm sure il get a harsh response to this but my daughter used to shout I need more love Mam and had my life for years but in high sight I responded to her, whilst obviously you are dealing with a traumatised child here and I understand for the bonding process all of the steps you have done but does there get to a point where you are reacting/supporting her and she is then behaving in a way for that ate attention. I understand you need to parent her therapeutically and she does need to be attached to you, but for you to do this successfully you also need to look after yourself and have some sleep. Did the sw offer any advice for you and your dd or was it just child focused.

PoppyStellar · 23/07/2017 23:16

She's 7.

nomud We've just started doing some mindfulness stuff - meditations and breathing in bed and it's helpful (for me if not DD!) and the issues are definitely borne out of separation anxiety. I have limited knowledge of her pre adoption experiences but know enough to know that it is highly likely there was some trauma at night times.

Thank you for the suggestion of the paediatrician I will look into that.

annoyed I do get what you are saying. At the moment I am doing what I'm doing on the advice of professionals. Who knows whether it is the right approach or potentially exacerbating the stress.

OP posts:
NoMudNoLotus · 23/07/2017 23:28

Poppy FWIW what you are doing won't be doing any harm at all.
She's very frightened , sounds like she has had very poor attachments and is really frightened that she's bonding with you, so goes through a cycle of wanting you and then pushing you away.

What you are doing at the moment is so very healing for her because you are showing her that you are there regardless - that you are consistently loving her and it will get better.

Children with secure attachments get frightened by the dark at different stages and ages so for those with traumatic starts to life it gets amplified .

Please make sure you have a supportive GP and that you are using him/her - if you don't have a supportive GP - move to one.
Make sure you are accessing all the help you can for you .

You are doing an amazing job poppy.

NoMudNoLotus · 23/07/2017 23:39

Also worth thinking about making up a "soothing box".

Collecting smells, textures , foods she likes and putting it all in a box for those times when she's starts to gets overwhelmed.

For eg tactile material or teddies , relaxing pillow spray ( you could take her shopping and help her choose ) , certain food or drink that comforts her , any images or pictures that she likes looking at ...

If she's experienced trauma at night grounding techniques ( have a google ) can also be really helpful .
These are about trying to root her in the here and now ...
for eg, ask her to describe what she can see in her room , open a window and let her face feel the air , ask her to describe how her head feels on the pillow , or how her hand feels in yours , anything that will help her to feel connected to the here and now. X

PoppyStellar · 23/07/2017 23:44

Thank you nomud you don't know how much your kind words and helpful suggestions mean

OP posts:
NoMudNoLotus · 24/07/2017 00:19

Be very gentle with yourself .

fasparent · 24/07/2017 00:25

Would see your GP and ask perhaps for a referral too Genetic Clinic.
At same time referral too community paediatrician. As you said you are not sure regards her past history , there may be other underlying problems and perhaps sensory problems which are creating secondary issues.
We followed this path as or DS had similar problems he had FASD with lots of sleep problems caused by Sensory issues. Light, sound, touch, smell's Etc. But as explained he could have had other conditions which have same effects. As FASD is just an umbrella term
for many conditions ADHD, Autism, etc.
It was tough for a few years but he is OK now.

flapjackfairy · 24/07/2017 09:50

Poppy you sound like you are doing an amazing job under v difficult circumstances so well done.
A couple of thought? Now the dreaded school hols are here if you are off work at any point what about breaking the cycle completely by getting a pop up tent and sleeping in living room.
Lots of fun and giggling, midnight feast etc as a special treat . Make night time fun as a first step . Then perhaps move the tent to your bedroom and see if she is better able to settle where she feels contained as this often helps with sensory issues , anxiety etc.
I think taking all pressure off for a short while could help .
Good luck x

flapjackfairy · 24/07/2017 09:50

Oh and ps it will get better !

PoppyStellar · 24/07/2017 11:03

Thank you. The idea of a tent is really fun, will definitely give that a try over the holidays. Sensory issues are definitely a theme, she likes to be cocooned - I guess it helps with feeling secure and safe (all primary concerns for her). Thanks for all the good advice and support.

OP posts:
JustHappy3 · 24/07/2017 12:10

Just to say that you are doing a brilliant job. It is hard though - so hard. AD's psychologist says that, if you can, to just respond, respond, respond to help her heal. (AD wakes up a lot in the night.)
It's not normal advice - but would a later bedtime help in any way? Prob not if the issue is fear of sleep/bedtime. Or a big burst of exercise eg the park before bedtime. These work well for us but it goes against the norm i know.

cakegoblin · 24/07/2017 12:40

I had a good six months of extremely similar behaviour with my DS (who is not adopted) last year - an angel during the day but bedtimes were awful. I tried every method I could think of, toys with lights to go on the ceiling, a good solid bedtime routine, comforting words, blackout blinds, the lot. Relatives telling me to shut the door and let him cry it out - tried it once but this seemed to break trust and made things worse. I sat with him holding his hand to go to sleep from when he was little, but this gradually took progressively longer until at the end of the summer I slept on a mattress outside his door for 2 weeks as I was so worried that he had separation anxiety that I needed to comfort him through. I couldn't think straight to be honest.

The breakthrough came when I downloaded a book on the psychology of separation anxiety to see if I could find a way to ease it for him. There was a checklist - and the lightning bolt came - he didn't actually have separation anxiety! The big clue being that he was perfectly happy without me for stretches during the day. I found it much easier to deal constructively with his sleep issues once I knew that - I made a chart for his wall and bought a huge lucky dip bag of little trashy toys as bribes so that if he went to bed nicely on his own (with door open and me in next room 'tidying') and slept all night he could have a present in the morning. I let him have the first one so that he could understand what was going to happen, and from that point on if he woke I would remind him to go back to sleep or he couldn't have his present - within 3 days he slept through and within 3 weeks or so he was sleeping through every night. The bribes got progressively smaller and less interesting and just tailed off naturally.

I don't mean to diminish your DD's problems at all with this, I hope it doesn't sound like I am - but I was so desperate I couldn't see things clearly, and while I think the problem started with a kind of separation anxiety, I had actually let the habit form myself by showing that I was concerned by everything he said about being upset and speaking sympathetically rather than being more matter-of-fact about bedtime. It was a hard thing to accept.

Hoping this might help you in some way - it seems so daunting and I found that there is relatively little help around when you need a non-judgemental ear. Good luck!

B1rdonawire · 24/07/2017 14:40

If she likes being cocooned, maybe a bed-tent (as in a tent you put the whole mattress inside)? Or, less drastically, going back to using a sleep-sack instead of a duvet has helped DD. Or wrapping her whole single mattress in a king-size duvet so it's tucked in tight on three sides, if you see what I mean?

For your sanity, maybe make sure you have all the things you need in your own calm box when you're about to start trying to settle her - kindle / handcream / cushion / sewing or knitting ... anything so you can sort of nestle down and make your peace with the fact you're going to be there for some time, and can be "quietly busy" beside her?

The new Sarah Naish book "William Wobbly and the Mysterious Holey Jumper" has only been out a week and has already noticeably helped DD express her ongoing separation worries. Her sleep is also already improving (by our standards!) since term finished on Friday, so crossing my fingers you might see an improvement there too.

During the daytime, is it possible to ask her whether there's something that would help her at bedtime - like, would she prefer the light on / to be wrapped in your dressing-gown / a fan on? This is maybe not the way to go if there are control issues, so feel free to dismiss this one.

In the meantime, a bit of out loud natural consequences perhaps, like you curling up for a 90%-nap on the sofa in the afternoon? "I am so tired from last night, that I need to have a quiet rest time now." Not heavy-handed or shaming, but just stating a fact - you have limits, you need to look after yourself.

tldr · 24/07/2017 16:00

I recognise bits of what you describe in DD's behaviour (though mercifully we don't have it every night).

Things that have helped us are 1) later bedtime (Ikr) 2) doing all getting ready, stories, cuddles, good nights etc downstairs and sending her up on her own to be followed up and tucked in briefly later and 3) not having any expectations that she'll go to sleep any time soon (she plays/colours/reads and then goes to sleep, usually with the light on, when she's ready).

We think 2 reduces the feeling of 'getting left' because actually she's leaving us and 3 is a control thing because she's getting away with something (or thinks she is). As long as she's reasonably quiet and not bouncing off the walls we don't mind much...

And YY to natural consequences. 'Sorry we can't do X today, I need to do the dishes because I didn't get them done last night. Maybe tomorrow.' Etc.

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