Tuesday, June 20, 2017
9 yr old has meltdowns at bedtime
Stumbled over your report and blog a few weeks back and a lot of things fell into place regarding our now 9 year old daughter. We're now trying to work through some of your suggestions.
Thinking there may be a dietary trigger in that the last few meltdowns have followed chocolate or very sweet puddings at restaurants. Could this be a trigger?
One other question. Tonight's meltdown came after a lovely day when we told her it was bedtime. She instantly switched off to us and became increasingly agitated. Despite trying to explain and to reason with her she focused on any negativity. Left alone she has calmed and gone to bed. However she shares a room with a younger sister - something she wanted to do - and has scared her to the point we had to remove the younger sister to our room in order to resettle her. This is not ideal. So, any bedtime meltdown tips please?
Grateful for any help.
Hi, bedtime can trigger a meltdown because a child may not want to stop whatever she is doing that is fun. Generally, if some fun activity follows a boring activity, then a child is more likely to do the boring activity. But nothing fun follows bedtime, except maybe for the parents, who get a breather when their children are asleep! What I recommend is doing something the child enjoys after she gets in bed, like a story or a card game. If this engages your child, she will be more likely to get into bed. Pick a relatively calm activity so that your child is more likely to wind down.
Rewards do not usually work well because a child isn't concerned with a reward that will come tomorrow when she would rather do something with you tonight!
What happens if you successfully get your child into bed with a fun activity, but when the activity is over, she does not want to stay in bed and sleep? That's a tough one. You could do another more calming activity, such as have your child lie down and read her a story in dim light. The other option, if she continues not to drop off to sleep, is to try a later bedtime when she is more likely to be exhausted.
Once you have determined it is time to leave, do not talk a lot or spend much time in her room. If she has a meltdown, you do not want to "reward" it by giving her a lot of attention. Usually these meltdowns tail off after a week or so, when the child sees that you will not spend more time with her.
As for sugar, there is controversy in the literature about its effects. More doctors feel that hunger (or a lack of sugar and other nutrients) is more likely to trigger irritability than an excess of sweets. However, chocolate does contain caffeine, so if your child is sensitive to caffeine, that could delay sleepiness.
Best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb