On New Years Eve, as I lay down with my eldest daughter to help get her to sleep, I asked what her new year’s wish would be – you certainly can’t ask a demand-avoidant child what her new year’s resolution would be!
Going to sleep over the last few years has been one of our hugest obstacles, but I soon learned that the simple demand of falling to sleep was causing her the most difficulty – the more tired she became the more she avoided trying to fall to sleep.
The house was extremely explosive and disruptive for her siblings as a result – see here for the first post I wrote on this topic.
So we trialled Melatonin, and coupled with the safety of having me lay with her, has finally led to our own unique version of a ‘good sleep routine.’
It wasn’t the way I started parenting, but one that I have adapted to.
I used to do it by the Supernanny parenting book and every time that she got up I forced her back to her own bed.
She cried with anger being forced to do something that she was actually becoming frightened to do – something that parents are told they must win the battle over when you keep following that ‘book.’
What I really needed to do was alter my mindset.
Parenting a child with additional needs requires an ability to be more flexible and to tune in to what the behaviour is telling us.
My daughter wasn’t choosing to disrupt the household or to be oppositional and defiant.
She was merely communicating that she felt scared and when in panic mode she isn’t always able to use words to express her emotions.
There was also a level of frustration there too.
The more she tried to ‘naturally’ fall asleep, the longer it was taking her.
Her legs would be dangling up the walls, head scurried under the pillow, bashing her limbs everywhere and the hyperactivity would just grow and grow.
Her sister would fall asleep and she would cry and scream even more.
It’s infuriatingly unfair when you want to get some rest but your brain won’t let you and you know you should be able to.
The knock-on effect from having lack of sleep meant that she was always far more impulsive and explosive the next day – at the worst point overloading all day long.
I tried every alternative route before I asked to try Melatonin.
Some nights, laying with her, I would even try putting on a guided reiki healing, hoping that a form of meditation would do the trick.
For one night it worked, but the pressure of needing to achieve that self-imposed demand again led to further avoidance the next night. I can remember being punched so hard in the face and her screaming so loud she hated me, that I was ugly, it woke up the two younger siblings.
It takes some human endurance to live with Violent and Challenging Behaviour (VCB) from your child and to not let your emotions get in the way.
At this point we were all beyond exhaustion but we had to find a way to make it better.
So I changed my approach and it payed off.
The expectation that she should be able to fall asleep independently was just too much for my daughter and I shouldn’t have believed that she had to be the same as everyone else.
However, altering how she goes to sleep has massively changed her life and works for our individual family. She knows what’s coming next and doesn’t have the same level of anxiety as before; therefore the challenging behaviour has reduced at bedtimes.
My new year’s wish a long while ago was to find a way for us all to get some sleep and this wish seems to have come true.
Back to my daughter’s new year’s wish for 2019 and it was relating to being in school.
It looks to be a rocky road ahead of us, some of which I can’t really write about just yet, but with regards to my little beauty’s simple wish – I’m just praying a miracle will come true.
It’s difficult when she has asked for something that really doesn’t seem possible.
School and sleep have been this family’s greatest challenges so far – both in equal measures. Two very basic components to family life and two things that have caused us the most angst and frustration.
Most seven year olds dream of becoming princesses, having super powers or finding treasure.
My daughter has aspirations of being like other children.
She just, simply, wants her brain to sleep and to find a way to go to school.