Jul 19, 2011

My husband and I don't agree about how to deal with our step-daughter

Category: Sleeping Problems
Posted By: Ryan Lowe
I have a step daughter who is nearly 8 and she refuses to sleep alone. To top it off my husband isn't much help. She cries every time we put her to bed stating she misses mommy (we get her every other weekend) which I get but I think it is time for to learn to sleep on her own. My husband will sometimes lay with her until she falls asleep but she will still come in our room in the middle of the night crying. My husband will let her lay with us and tells her she has to go back in a minute but doesn't make her or just ends up sleeping with her in her bed. I need help in two areas: how do I make my husband see she needs to sleep on her own (he just states I don't understand? Btw our 1 year old sleeps in his own bed) and how do I make it easier for her? I want my husband back and I want her to feel comfortable and enjoy things like slumber parties and such.


Answer: Hi Shannon, thank you for your question, I can see how frustrating it is for you, and given that your question arrived first thing on a Monday morning, I am guessing you had a difficult weekend with your stepdaughter.  As to an answer for you, I think that the first area you mention is where the solution lies; that you and your husband need to have a united front on how the issue is dealt with.  Your stepdaughter cannot be expected to be clear about what the rules are when you and your husband cannot agree on them.  The issue of providing a united front is very diffiult and one which many step-parents struggle with.  It is also fraught with many, many emotional conflicts.  For example you wrote, "I want my husband back" and your step daughter may well be feeling, "I want my father back".  There are very few children of divorced parents who do not longingly wish for their parents to get back together and it may be that your step-daughter also has this wish and is unconsciously driven to find a way to literally get between you and your husband.  It is worth bearing in mind that a child of divorced parents will always be in a position of missing one parent.  They are either with their mother and missing their father or with their father and missing their mother.  Of course they want to resolve this situation by getting the two back together and resolving their own heartbreak.

I would suggest that it is imperitive that you and your husband make time to think about the situation and get to a place where you are both able to see each other's point of view.  Your point of view is clear in your question but I wonder what it is that your husband thinks you do not understand? Perhaps your husband is picking up on something in your stepdaughter's needs that neither of you is really aware of.  Perhaps she needs some one-to-one time with him each weekend, or some way of meeting her need for increased time with her father that is not disruptive to everyone's sleep.  I suggest that you both sit down and think about what your stepdaughter is trying to express with her behaviour and how you might help her with this in a way which you are both okay with.  If you get really stuck with it, it would be very easy and a short term piece of work if you had a couple of sessions with a couple's counsellor or a family therapist to resolve the issue.

Once you and your husband have come up with a clear and united plan then you can put this to your stepdaughter.  Tell her that you have thought about her needs and you understand that she needs... (whatever you have come to the conclusion that she needs).  Then let her know that you are going to help her with this by ..... (what ever you decide) but that she can no longer.... (whatever you decide she can and can't do with regards to sleeping arrangements).  It may take a few visits before she settles into the new situation but as long as she feels that she is being thought about and comes to realise that you and her father are now clear and united as to how things need to be, she should settle into the new routine in time.


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