Monkey boy has now managed to get to sleep without needing me lying on the floor next to him 6 nights in a row. For over 2 years he has been very defiant about any bedtime routine to the point of extreme violence forcing me to stay awake because he is awake by thrashing and beating me - nothing helped. Finally he said he would try because he did not want me to die. He still struggles, says he needs me and he's lonely and he's not asleep before 10.30 but this is totally life changing for me. I have been reading a novel and going to bed at 10.30 in my own bed - oh the joy!
Mum to AS, Jealous Dog (18) and AS, Monkey Boy (16), married to Rundad
Oh this is defintely life changing. Long may it continue. Well done both of you!
Mum to AS Big Fish (19, 16 years at home) and AS Little Minnow (13, almost 6 years at home), came separately, and now a wonderful, feisty horse who lets me escape from kids with attitude and the drudgery of disability services and a top of the range adapted van provided by the council fulfilling their legal requirements!
How did you manage this rubbish? I mean hurting you is just not on, whatever his mental stage. My youngest is very controling and would love me to stand on my head to figure out his deepest emotional turmoil and if given a chance he would direct how I live my life in every aspect. Including me having no 'respite' because he would make sure to keep me on my toes with 1001 fears and excuses not to sleep, well past midnight. I am emotional avaliable for my children during day time, after they're in bed no longer, unless they're ill. I believe by for example staying with a child because they say they are scared, what can be the case, you are confirming there is something to be scared about, why would you otherwhise stay? Reassuring everything is safe and you'll be back to check on them later might work better. I am also not bothered or my children sleep or lay awake, I can not make them sleep. What I expect is that they are in their beds quietly, what I can enforce.
I am not saying this to be critical but just to offer a different point at looking at those problems. In my experience with this sort of children 9 of 10 times it boils down to one or other issue to controle the parent. It is a fine line between giving a child emotional what they need and parenting in such a way that we are not running low on fuel because they are draining us by for example demanding our full attention far past bedtime, denying us even a few hours private time.
I hope your son continues a more healthy sleeping pattern, I imagen it will be a huge relief to get some of your private time back.
I think what Pluto says is really important - sounds like your experience Pluto is quite like Sally Donovan's and your approach reflects what she says about bedtime to quite a large extent hence it's likely to be helpful to many. However I share our experience below because our biggest mistake was sticking with the conventional approach for too long.
We did all the below with advice and support from a Family Therapist and from our Post Adoption team.
Step 1 - Take the conventional approach - reassure, create a restful environment, set out an easy to understand pictorial bedtime routine, state expectations, be consistent, offer an incentive for doing what you require. Firmly say it's bedtime when he calls out and take him back when he comes down and walk away. We tried this for a long time - 9 months or so! First he grabbed whatever he could find and smashed holes in the bedroom wall. Holes so large he pulled all the cavity wall insulation out and reached into the electrical wires. We "made safe" or rather a fantastic friend kept coming round to put the house back together at all hours made it safe and we persevered - obviously not redecorating or anything just making safe. We thought we must be consistent he will eventually learn.
He then started coming out of the bedroom after us with whatever he could use as a weapon so we could not relax wherever we were in the house. So we bought a large safe locked all sharp objects in there and removed anything that might potentially be used as a weapon to a locked shed - very inconvenient when you want to cook dinner but safer. We then discovered you can never create total lockdown and a child like MB will always find something to use as a weapon so we locked ourselves in the bathroom and he smashed holes in the bathroom door and then threatened to attack our other son - also adopted. Safeguarding being the number 1 priority we switched to one adult sitting in our other son's room with our back to the door to prevent Monkey Boy from getting in whilst the other adult tried to de-escalate with him from a friend on our emergency speed dial list locking self in bathroom where necessary/appropriate. We persevered with this for many more months.
Then exhausted, covered in bruises, feeling guilty about the burden on our friends and having had no sleep for a year or so, living in a house that was once a relaxing haven but was now totally trashed and looking like a squat in every room and trying to get up and carry on with life the next day with our Therapist scratching her head and simply admiring our perseverance and the post adoption team providing tea and reflective space we realised we had 2 further choices
a) Try to get the LA to take him back into care - temporarily but possibly eventually permanently - massive and not as easy as it sounds unless one of the kids is at risk which they were not because we made that our priority. b) Think about what his behaviour was saying and consider the possibility that whilst needing to control adults was clearly part of all this there was other stuff as well that was not going away and hence accept that he might need an adult to co-sleep as his fears may indeed be genuine. All this whilst taking him to therapy and thinking about and acting on his sensory needs which were also an issue and almost certainly part of the mix.
Believe me we seriously thought about a) as we were exhausted, wounded and b) was clearly going to be hard work.
However we believed we could help him find some healing, did not want to set his brother back as he was progressing and we felt that we needed to reduce our own stress and in all honesty consistency was just consistently unhelpful.
So we contacted Family Futures, went on the Great Behaviour Breakdown course, started co-sleeping having done some clear preparatory work with both boys about why and what we hoped for in the future, started the boys on life story therapy via the LA and paid for Monkey Boy to see a private psychiatrist. The latter diagnosed ADHD and the meds have really helped Monkey Boy during the day. Although the psychiatrist was adamant that we needed to go back to conventional behavioural approaches too - we ignored this as by now we were convinced it did not help MB. So we talked to MB during the day about how he might help himself not to need me. He came up with some ideas but has really struggled.
We were about to start using elements of the NVR approach having been on training for that (again self funded) in order to try to hasten progress when suddenly Monkey Boy reached a tipping point and seemed to have much more desire to try and change even though he was clearly struggling. He suddenly just asked me for a prayer and then said I'm going to try to sleep without you, I don't want you to die. He called out saying he was sacred and lonely and I just said keep trying, you're safe and resolutely went to bed - half expecting him to appear with a weapon. He crashed about a bit in his room, lost steam and an hour or so later he went to sleep. He has now slept without me for over a week.
Every case is different and I would always advise starting with the most "conventional" approach unless you have evidence that it will not work for you but I would actually say our mistake was to carry on for too long always thinking that eventually he would learn from experience. I now think he really finds it so hard to learn from experience that he needs a different way. He has foetal alcohol/cannabis effects and we are sure this is why some things don't shift. That damage is permanent and needs a different approach.
Having been through all this together we are stronger. Now we will start on trying to get him to fall asleep earlier as Melatonin is helping but has just shifted things a little and Rundad is still having to cajole Monkey Boy to stick with it whilst I make myself scarce.
Adoption is a complex world and the more we share the more we can make links with our own experience and find our own individual ways forward. Hope this helps some.
Mum to AS, Jealous Dog (18) and AS, Monkey Boy (16), married to Rundad
Wow, that's an amazing achievement! Really hope the new phase lasts for him. I know all too well that standing your ground does not always work. With our youngest it can lead to a complete standoff and refusal for us to 'win' as she once said, but we haven't experienced it to the degree you describe (just had a lot of hairy times over sleeping!)