Friday, 18 July 2014

Bedtime!

Bedtime is becoming a bit of a swear word in our house at the moment.  Trying to a) get Katie to bed and b) keeping her in bed once she is there. As bedtime approaches every evening I start to dread it.

This is an issue we've certainly traversed before, many times. With every change in Katie's life (except when she moved in with us interestingly) bedtime is effected.  This is the worst period we've ever had though because it's not just the getting out of bed that is the issue.  There is an underlying hyper-activeness and aggression at not getting her own way that is making the issue harder to manage this time around. The house move and the hot weather is exacerbating the situation as she struggles to settle and gets hotter and hotter.  She just seems to be buzzing. Totally unable to settle herself at all.  Trying to physically tire her out doesn't seem to make any difference neither does limiting sugary products.  It's like she's decided she is staying awake.  She's up and down like a yo-yo which then prevents her from settling and getting to sleep.  She regularly holds out until 10pm and it was nearly 11pm a few nights ago because I was out. In fact she is noticeabley worse on the evenings that I am out. As I'm typing this she is banging about upstairs, thumping up and down her cabin bed and has just appeared downstairs again and I'm starting to feel my stomach knot up in sheer frustration. 

When we go up to her room we are met with aggression and rudeness. She is experimenting with verbally threatening me with violence i.e. "if you don't give me my light back I'm going to pull your eyes out". My response was a simple stare. No words required. Eye to eye contact Iearned from many years of dealing with aggressive teens. It says "I'm not afraid of you".  Inside though I'm worrying if this means my child is heading towards becoming one of those teens and that terrifies me. I'm hoping that she's just testing. Her response to my stare was to say she didn't mean it. I hope she didn't.

I discussed this with my counsellor and she congratulated me for not doing the obvious thing that many parents would do and not go out.  To be honest at the moment, with how things are for me personally, I need that time out.  I need to be able to laugh and relax a bit.  I need a little time (without becoming a Beautiful South song) to try and rekindle the person that I used to be because the "me" inside feels tired and heavy.  It feels like I'm having to force internal calmness on a moment by moment basis so that I don't constantly blow my top  in sheer frustration at everything with Katie being a battle. I said in my last post "Moving House" that I feel shell-shocked.  I'm naturally a very peace-loving and positive person.  I generally see the good in most things and love to help and support other people.  At the moment I just want to disappear inside myself and seem to have nothing to give myself, let alone anyone else.  I'm burnt out, not depressed.

I'm not a sit back and let it happen sort of person so as well as continuing to go to my Reiki healing share I often attend talks at our local Holistic group.  We have been blessed with some incredibly inspirational speakers over the past few weeks and I was particularly inspired this week by a man called Ian Tucker.  His message is very simple and the same as many other spiritual authors.  He suggests approaching life from a place of love and the positive impact on the self that this will have.  I hear that message and really, really, really want to embrace it.  In fact I floated home and managed to maintain it, for nearly 24 hours, until I couldn't handle the relentlessness of my daughter for another moment.  I could feel that anger and frustration rising and feel like Phil Berquist in City Slickers.  Now, I don't personally hate anyone but the outburst that Phil has in the film feels like the turmoil going on inside me and I will honestly say I find it hard to like my daughter and hold onto a loving feeling when she is behaving this way because it feels like a personal attack. 

I think I understand why Katie is behaving the way that she is.  There is so much in her life that is out of her control so she has regressed to an emotional time in her life when she moved in with us.  Maybe there is healing from that time that needs to happen so that she can move forward again.  Maybe Pip joining us has rekindled all those feelings again.  Maybe moving house has exacerbated all of that. Maybe my current emotional distance as I manage my illness and Katie's behaviour is making Katie feel unsafe and has become a Catch 22 situation? It it also the summer term at school which is well known for being a time of general horrendousness.  The nights are light and warm so children aren't sleeping well. Katie has said she wants to come down and watch the programmes that TCM and I watch (Banshee? No way on this earth missy!).  So if she can't watch them then neither can we because we are spending all our evening putting her back to bed or are terrified she'll walk in on an unacceptable programme for her so we're not getting our wind-down time.  

There is a big change coming up as the children head into a new school year.  What will be expected of them? Why do they yet again have to leave what is familiar and safe?  Emotional rugs are being pulled from under children all over the country so much of Katie's behaviour might also be related to that. The difficulty as a parent is that you never really know.  I'm hoping that the summer holidays might bring some healing for us all.  I am going to hold on to the message that Ian Tucker gave and I do believe he's right.  I can see how overloaded I have become whilst dealing with a lot of emotional things.  I don't like feeling negative or seeing only problems. It's tiring and it's a waste of time.  I don't want to feel this way and I have nothing to gain from it.  Katie and I may well be on the same page with how we are feeling perhaps?

On so many levels I feel like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting.  Waiting for an essence of myself to return so that I can engage with life and my family in the way I want to.  Waiting for this phase with Katie to pass.  I know we will sort out the bedtime issue, we always have in the past.  I hope the summer holidays will help.  It's been a long term and we're all exhausted.  For Katie, being tired brings hyperactiveness not sleep. She's always been the same.  Thankfully she's sleeping in until about 7am so she's at least getting some sleep but she's emotionally on a knife edge, melting down in the manner of a two year old.  I'm waiting for my Vitamin D levels to rise so that hopefully I no longer feel so tired and in pain and I can be the parent and person that I know I am.  I look back to this time last year and feel that we have been emotionally up in the air since then.  I'm not dreading the summer holidays this year though so I can see that there are some shifts. Katie is often much better with Pip now and I can see moments of real love between them.  Pip utterly adores Katie and there are times when you can see she feels the same but there are also times when she looks at him with a look that contains enormous anger and I worry she wants to hurt him.  Now that Pip is more mobile I think the holidays will be easier.  Although it's taking it's toll currently I am coping/ticking over with Katie's behaviour and I think that she needs more time with me.  There's a part of me that feels like I don't want more time in a war zone but the therapeutic parent part of me suspects that we need to pull everything back to basics for a while and the holidays are a great opportunity to do just that.

From a parenting perspective we are trying to be consistent.  TCM and I have acknowledged that we are often not quite on the same page.  TCM definitely wears the "Good Cop" badge more than I do and we've agreed our boundaries over bedtime so as not to give a mixed message to Katie.  The routine of bathtime then bedtime is agreed and clear.  Coming down for a bit of TV is something that Katie cannot cope with because she gets too upset when it's bedtime.  We're both keeping tight boundaries over unacceptable behaviour and trying very, very, very, very hard to ignore a lot of the rude behaviour (I find this part incredibly difficult and is probably my biggest anger trigger!). We're letting her read until she's sleepy with her nightlight on because she'll just turn her bedroom light on or sit in the hallway. Short of locking her in her bedroom, which we will obviously not do, I'm at a loss to know what else to do. She used to go to bed and sleep beautifully after a story and kiss and cuddle and her musical dog. Now she is constantly looking for an argument. I just don't know what to do. Reward systems aren't working nor are penalties. I try to just ignore all the banging about and not give it any attention but that's often easier said than done.  I internally worry about Pip being disturbed but rarely let on to Katie that I am concerned so as not to give her more ammunition. She doesn't care about anything and that's even more sad to see. I can't imagine what is going on in her head.

I'm sure I'm not alone in these experiences. Please come and share your stories with me. How did/do you cope? What strategies do you use? 

14 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear you're having such a tough time with Katie. PAC have been incredibly supportive to us, how about giving them a ring to see if they can help. One thing that Missy loves and will for sure get her to clean her teeth and in bed is a guided meditation on CD, it def calms her down. Would that interest Katie? I'll try to think of other things PAC suggested to us and mail you. xx

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    1. We get PAC emails as part of our LA. I might contact them. Thank you for the idea. I do a short guided meditation with her about unicorns which she loves doing. Tonight I'm going to try laying with her on the bed and listening to a relaxation CD i.e. waterfalls etc and see if that combination helps to settle her a bit. Thank you Sezz xx

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  2. Hi Gem, sorry to hear about the nightmare that bedtime has turned into. We are having a similar issue with our 3 year old. When it comes to bedtime she knows what behaviour is acceptable and expected from her, however she will lie there and sing/talk at the top of her voice for hours. It drives my husband and I crazy as regardless of what we say or how we handle it she just carries on night after night. Tiring her out in the day or settling her down with a bath/story does not appear to help her. I too would welcome any help or suggestions anyone has in how to deal with this problem. Thanks for sharing your story.

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    1. We have similar tales to tell it seems. Do you get the feeling that she knows exactly what she's doing? I certainly do. Katie doesn't want to go to sleep. She's decided that and until she decides otherwise this is where we'll be. I will continue to blog about all the things I try and share any successes. At the moment I am trying laying with her and listening to soothing music. It didn't go well last night although it was a calmer evening. She didn't sleep until 10pm again though but she didn't keep coming down as much. Maybe I need to grade on a curve here!! Hope you get some success soon. xxx

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    2. I def believe that she knows what she's doing and that makes it harder for me to deal with. It's as though she turns it on & off to suit her. Leaves me feeling out of control & I guess no parent wants to feel like that. xx

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    3. I've come to the same conclusion here. Will post the blog as to why in the next day or so but, you're right, that is almost harder to deal with plus it brings more anger into the equation.

      Sorry for the slow reply xxx

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  3. We've had our sons with us a year now and bedtimes were always tricky at their carers so we had forewarning. We do the same routine at the same time night in and night out, regardless of where we are, and save for a few extraordinary kick offs, it works a treat. My partner and I both, without fail do the whole routine together, every step of the way from tea time onwards, so 5.45pm to 7pm. TV is only on from 4.30 to 5.30 every day, any more or any later, and we find it over excites them. It's then tea around the table as a family and then into the lounge for story. We tried story after bath but again, it over excited them so now it's downstairs before bath. Then it's up for bath, then into PJs. We then all sing one song, then we have circle time, which is when we hold hands and say a family rhyme together. Then each boy has cuddle time with each of us. Then into bed with their special teddies, where kisses and another cuddle is given and we tell each other what we're going to dream of. Then we leave the room with a nursery rhyme CD playing. It's rare that they're not asleep within 10 mins and rare we have to go back in. It sounds simple, and it is. If we do have any crying, which is rare, we leave it for 10 mins. Generally it stops, if it doesn't, one of us will go in and if they're not hurting, scared and ill, we leave. And don't go back in.

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    1. Apologies for the slow reply. Been a tough week here. Your bedtime sounds great. Ours used to be that organised and I hope it will again. It is with Pip which is something at least. Lol xx

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  4. Oh dear, sounds rough!
    Jonathan has never been able to settle himself without melatonin -like Katie, the amount of physical exercise he gets during the day doesn't effect him (he can literally climb a mountain and he still runs like the wind). We have greatly reduced the amount of melatonin to only 3 mg a night (apparently from other fosterhomes, he use to be on as much as 20!). We've tried to go with out for a couple of weeks and it takes him hours to settle himself and he's miserable during the day. We, like you, keep bedtime/evening routines strict but he needs that little extra that his body doesn't seem to produce. I don't know Katie's story, but Jonathan was neglected fairly severely and I'm certain was never rocked or soothed to sleep. He just can't do it. But, we sit with him every night, sing, talk, rub his back and, with the help of melatonin, are trying to teach him how to settle himself. Hopefully one day we can get rid of it all together. That's our bedtime story...maybe trying melatonin or other remedies would help?

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    1. The melatonin is definitely there in the back of my mind. I've been trying some homeopathic remedies but they've not worked. Will try some Bach Flower Remedies again and do my own mix. I think Katie has decided she won't go to sleep tbh. There are indicators to this that I'll blog about but she's decided she wants to stay up like me and TCM. She thinks it's unfair we get to stay up and not her so she's controlling our evening to ensure she gets our attention instead. Toughie that one xx

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  5. You have tried very firm boundaries for bedtime. If they don't work, what about trying sitting in her room until she goes to sleep, or lying with her? You might find that it works on a whole different level to convince her that it is not a battle she needs to fight? I think children's ability to switch off when they are tired is radically altered as they get older, and they can stay up way past their natural falling asleep time when they are agitated or determined. You aren't teaching Katie that she is in charge, you are just changing her attitude to going to bed, when you stay with her until she falls asleep.;

    Rudeness is a sign that she is getting more and more tired and unable to control her emotions as a result of that tiredness. The way she settled at three is not necessarily a prediction of how she can settle at 6.

    The other suggestion is to make bedtime a lot more casual and less formal. Tie in a chat downstairs and another snack. Take the snack up to bed and eat it there. Make a camp on her floor and settle yourself there and close your eyes. It might be that bedtime is beginning to follow a very predictable pattern that she is locked into, where she fights to control you. Sit on her bed chatting for later than you might want. Pretend for a while that the evenings are not your downtime. Maybe don't even say the word bedtime or bed, just mention going into her room to chat. Put your pjs on too. These are just all suggestions to descalate those feelings of frustration that you have when you try and put a reluctant child to bed and you are just longing for them to GO TO BED and give you some peace. She can probably sense that and is trying to control you.

    I have been through this. And come out the other side. All the three children have been through very needy periods at bedtime and I can honestly say it is a constant process of re-adjustment and recalibration. And by and large I can get a 14 year old boy to bed at 9.30pm (when lots of people tell me their's don't manage earlier than 11pm) and the 12 year old boy with ASD to bed at 9pm. My daughter at 6 years was the worst offender and we used to get very angry with her demanding antics, until I tried lying with her and cuddling her, method. In a sense I outwitted her and outwitted the demands.

    Have you googled Sensory Integration - you might find that Katie needs a heavier blanket or a cooler room - some children are very de-regulated from a sensory point of view and take much longer to settle on a physical level. I know this from my ASD experience with second son, but I also can now see that it was happening with my NT daughter too. That's why cuddling her to sleep worked wonders. Or sitting next to her bed and holding her hand. It is not necessarily spoiling. Reward charts did not work at all for us. However the habits associated with peacefully settling then had longterm advantage in making her more likely to fall asleep in her bed. By 8 years old dd was reading herself to sleep and had no need of me sitting or lying there, except very occasionally as a special treat (and I felt it was no hardship to sit there or lie there on those special occasions)

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to reply at such length Maria. I really appreciate and am sorry it's taken so long to reply. I'm going to take on board what you've said and think about how we approach bedtime. My ongoing chronic fatigue isn't helping here tbh as I'm usually fit to drop by bedtime. Katie is definitely deliberately staying awake. I do think she is hyper-aroused as well though and agree that her tiredness is making things worse. The hot weather is exacerbating it too as our rented house is like an oven and I'm struggling to settle to sleep too. I tried laying with her but it didn't work. It made thing a worse but I might give it another go. We've been using cardboard teddies to have bedtime chats which she loves and the snuggles down but the second I leave she's up and out of bed again. Will keep trying things. Thanks again xx

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  6. Bedtime with our son has always been difficult - though we have come a long way from nightly tantrums - he is also usually awake until 10pm and very noisy. In the light evenings I have been sitting in our conservatory with a book - which is as far away as I can get, inside the house, from the elephant feet!! We haven't found a solution, other than give it as little attention as possible. If he comes down, I usually respond to whatever he wants with a terse, 'O.k but after this I expect you to stay in your room and if you come down again I'm going to be cross' (er!!)

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    1. This sounds very familiar lol! You might also find some of Maria's tips useful? It's so hard when they decide they are going to mess about. Like you we try to ignore as much as possible but I will say she's very good at gaining attention lol xx

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