What's your biggest challenge when it comes to family life? Send your questions and dilemmas to experienced life coach Joanne Mallon via this confidential form. Your name can be changed on request.
We recently lost our 19-year-old son in a road traffic incident. We have
a 6-year-old daughter who seems to not ever want to sleep. She does not like to sleep in her own bedroom and is still awake at 10, even 11 o' clock in the evening. We do not force her to sleep as I feel if she's not tired then you can't. Have you got any ideas what we could do?
Here's life coach Joanne's reply:
I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your son. I'm sure the impact on your family has been, and continues to be enormous.
There are some children who don't seem to need as much sleep as others. But I don't think this issue has got anything to do with tiredness – it's much more likely to be related to how your daughter is dealing with the loss of her brother. Children of this age often do not show their true feelings openly, but the clues are there in their behaviour. So whilst it may look on the surface like your daughter is OK, this refusal to sleep is telling you that she's not.
A change in behaviour like this is one of the symptoms of grief in children, so one way to look at it is that it's good that your daughter is expressing her feelings at home – it wouldn't be healthy to keep them bottled up.
What feedback are you getting from your daughter's school? Is her lack of sleep having an impact there? Children of school age generally need around ten hours of sleep. If they consistently get less than this, it will affect her education and development.
Practical things you could try include:
- Talk to her about her brother – maybe look at some family photos together. Give her space to tell you how she feels. If she starts to express her feelings verbally, she will be less likely to do so via her behaviour.
- Contact The Child Bereavement Charity – they can offer resources including a helpline, online forum and a database of resources.
- Encouraging more physical activity to help your daughter feel more tired at night.
- Keep the same night-time routine – children feel more secure when they know what's happening when.
- Decide on a bedtime and stick to it. Don't let your daughter call the shots. She needs you to be loving but firm on this one. If she really can't get to sleep she could read in bed, listen to music or a story CD.
- Use a sticker chart to reward going to bed on time.