Separation anxiety

Kerry63August 9, 2012

My nine year old step son has been spending alternate weekends with my partner, myself and my two children (aged 13 and 8) for two and a half years. Initially he was very reluctant to come with us, never mind stay over. We have persevered and he is now usually happy to come, has a lovely time with us, is demonstrative and asks me for a "huggle" not long after he arrives and happily responds to my occasional requests for the same. I feel that he and I have developed a very strong relationship. My problem? The dreaded bedtime! As bedtime approaches he becomes homesick and we have developed a routine where he asks if he can tell me something, he tells me he is missing his mum, I say I know he is, but that she is safe and he will see her tomorrow and praise him for being brave. Usually, we allow the two younger children to watch a dvd in our bed (something never allowed when just my two resident children are here). This is because my stepson is relaxed when with my son, he shares a bedroom at home with his brother, and he usually drifts off to sleep mid film. The problem is, as the boys get older, obviously they stay awake longer and as both still get up very early, the following day they are often grumpy. We decided to change the bedtime routine and allow the boys to watch a dvd alone in their own beds (as the first step to weaning them from it) but as soon as the dvd is finished, my stepson becomes genuinely tearful. His Dad thinks he is playing up but having suffered from separation anxiety as a child myself, I recognise that he is desperately missing his Mum. Tonight, we chatted, I cuddled him and we agreed that he would count to 500 (he won't read) and then call me. I would go upstairs and praise/reassure him, and he would count again. A bit of a variation on controlled crying for a baby. It works, after only two lots of 500 he failed to call me, so I popped my head in to find him asleep. Yay! But it's eleven twenty and we have two more nights and busy days (it's the hols and we get a couple of extra nights) and I'm not sure this is the right way forward. It feels humane, gives him the benefit of the doubt but limits the attention he gets for his anxiety, and gives me the opportunity to praise his efforts at settling himself. I think it might work, my partner thinks his son should just go to sleep. :( Anybody else dealt with a similar situation.

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I think you're handling it very well. Perhaps since the going to sleep process takes so long you might try starting a little earlier so the boys get a good sleep, but otherwise I'd keep doing what you're doing. Does SS share a room with your 8 yo DS? If not, might be worth a try.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:35PM
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I appreciate you trying to ease the kid into sleep, but good grief, the kid is nine years old.

You ever watch the Nanny? She shows how to get kids way younger than 9 into bed with no fuss. I realize the kid may be missing his mom, but this has been going on for two years now? I agree with your BF - time to cut the apron strings and let this kid get himself to sleep.

Instead of letting him watch a DVD, I'd read him a book in bed and say Good night. The bedtime routine is taking waaaaaay too long and the boys are not getting enough sleep.

And I say this as a mother of a 14 year old and 6 year old.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 8:43AM
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