Ask Dr. Sleep – Janurary 2008

My question is: how does “dad” deal with this situation when the daughter visits overnight? He finally had his limit last week and actually gave in to her and took her to her mom’s at 11 at night. He is very frustrated, hurt and at his wits end with this problem. The daughter basically wants nothing to do with her dad (who is, by the way, very loving toward her and in the day none of this occurs) at bedtime.

If you can offer any suggestions it would be much appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Concerned Girlfriend who has raised three children of her own…but can’t figure this one out.

Dear Concerned girlfriend,
Thank you for sharing with us this painful situation. Believe it or not, but this situation is not as rare as it may be seen. Sleeping with parents for even older children is a very common habit in many cultures. We discussed this issue in our previous issues. Your situation is somewhat different and complicated by divorce. You did not report many reasons but it doesn’t sound normal for a teen to sleep everyday with her mother. In any case, it is possible to change this situation to your benefit.

First, talk to the girl to find out why she is behaving this way and to have a girl party in YOUR home (meaning to have a family bed on the floor in the living room and have the girl sleep with you). Maybe this will also make you close to the girl. First time, you could sleep between your boyfriend and his daughter, but better get him out to avoid possible accusations.

Second, try to include YOUR own children into the plan, make KIDS sleepover party on this family bed. Kids might be the best family therapists if they want to. Let them to dissipate the hit of a power game your boyfriend’s ex may play.

Third, make an attempt to talk to his ex. Maybe you will be more the women “smart” than him to cooperate on behalf of her daughter.

Fourth, if anything else fails, be firm with her but make it clear to your boyfriend that you are tough not because you hate his daughter, but to set up healthy limits.

At some point, your boyfriend should realize that he is dealing with the fire, and get tough, and set up a house rule, different from his ex, even it may mean that he will see his daughter outside of his house for awhile.

Good luck and thank you for being patient!