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11 Year Old daughter wakes up after she's been asleep and cries

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11 Year Old daughter wakes up after she's been asleep and cries


11 Year Old daughter wakes up after she's been asleep and cries

We have an 11 year old daughter who goes to bed at 8:30pm. My husband and I head upstairs at 10:30pm to go to bed. She wakes up nearly every night when we do (we come up as silently as possible although she's been able to sleep through us coming upstairs for the past 11 years).


She then starts crying and says she's scared and that she hasn't even fallen asleep (that she's been wide awake this whole time although when we check on her at 9:30pm she's always asleep), and last night was in hysterics for nearly an hour. She wouldn't say what she was afraid of- at first, she said it was the rain (but it hadn't been raining for over an hour), and then screamed how she couldn't calm down. We called her mom to try to talk to her, but her mom was just mad that we woke her up so it was no help.


At her moms house, she sleeps with her mom nearly every night, and if she cries, gets to go into her mom's bed. At her dads (where I live, she's my stepdaughter), he does let her sleep in the bed a couple of times a month at most, but then I'm displaced for sleeping. So he's gotten very adamant on her sleeping in her own bed, regardless of how she sleeps at her mom's house (she's also married and displaces her husband to sleep elsewhere so she can sleep in the bed). Overall, she is at the right maturity level for her age, but we recognize that at her mom's house she reverts back to acting younger to get away with not eating well and sleeping in her mom's bed.


Another thing that (my husband) does is has a TV in her room. I'm very much against this, and he knows that it doesn't help her with falling and staying asleep. I have that bad habit myself. When the TV turns off (which is on "sleeper timer"), she often times wakes back up and asks for it to be turned on. We do not give in to this. 


We're curious if this a phase- waking up, crying, to stop asking to sleep in our bed, what can we do to help her? We always work on communication skills, and begin by asking her to express why she's upset, but we also want to stand firm in not giving in to letting her in the bed just because her mom does. (I just wish we could keep the TV out of the room, but I have lost that battle)


Any help would be appreciated! We really want her sleep and overall health better, especially at our home since it appears to be a losing battle while she's not at our house. (we have her 50/50 time)

Frequent scribe

Re: 11 Year Old daughter wakes up after she's been asleep and cries

I’m so sorry to hear your 11 year old step daughter isn’t sleeping. This is a difficult and exhausting time for the family.

During your chats with her does she mention any difficulties she may be facing at school with friends or teachers? Or what her nightmares are about?
I have my son that wakes me up most nights, initially we thought is ts nightmares but we very quickly found out he was anxious about school and keeping up with the work load.
We now see a therapist that has help him immensely. Some of the tips given were, prepare for Bed time 20 min before, draw a picture of your fears and rip it up! Soft classical music, no iPad, tv etc.
We also started a guided meditation that helped him relax and get ready for sleep. We both enjoyed that one!

I also found this program online that helped me understand why children wake up
It’s called,
‘Help Your Child Sleep Alone’
The Goodnight Worry Program for Bedtime Fears.
Once you read this it will help you put some new rules in place and hopefully help you all sleep better at night.
For this to work successfully her mum will need to follow the new sleep routine as well.
A family meeting would be a great way to chat about a plan that works well in both homes. Once you all come to an agreement then you can chat to your child about the new bedtime routine.
Loads of love and hugs will be needed during as she may feel sad and uncomfortable with the change.

I hope this helps and please keep us update 🌼

Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: 11 Year Old daughter wakes up after she's been asleep and cries

@11yearoldkid thank you for coming on here and sharing this, it sounds like a really tough situation to be in, and I can imagine - quite exhausting. 

It's clear that you have your daughters well being in mind, and want the best way forward - it can be tough when there are different boundaries between parents.
it must be really awful for your 11yo to be feeling that level of distress every night as well Smiley Sad


I love the suggestions @Happy has put forward! 


I'm wondering if it's worth having a conversation with her about how she thinks the sleeping situation can improve (without sleeping in the same bed as a parent) - you could talk to her about the possibility of having sleepovers in the future with friends, and how that will work, and about growing up etc. She might have some other ideas you could try for a week and see how they go. 

I wonder if audio books, or music is a better option than TV  - and if you could get a nice lamp for her room? 

Leave the door open? 
What if she went to bed at the same time as you both for a few nights - like if you all went to bed at 9.30 as a compromise?


let us know how you go and what you think of these ideas!