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New Sleeping Issue with BF’s 10yr Old/Shared Custody/Half Sibling

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My boyfriend of 5yrs has a 10yr old daughter. Shared custody w/the mom, who married a while back, producing a child w/the new spouse. The routine’s always been this: Summertime- BF gets his daughter from Fri night-Sun night. During the school yr, He gets a full week as previously described, w/alternating ‘half’ weekends, Fri night to late Sat afternoon. Full, half, full half. There have been no issues w/this arrangement.

However, recently, my BF’s job had mandatory OT from Nov 1-Dec 31, requiring him to work every other Sat. So, those ‘half’ weekends he had w/his child were set aside altogether for 2 months. He just had her every other weekend from Fri night-Sun evening. The past few weekends his daughter has been here, she’s been getting up repeatedly after bedtime, insisting she can’t sleep. She exhausts a list of reasons (drink, bathroom, bathroom, stomach hurts, etc). Eventually, it comes down to her not wanting to sleep alone, and she says she wants her sister. Her 6 yr old half-sister shares a room w/her at her mom’s, and BF’s daughter has let it slip a few times that she lets the 6yr old share her bed.

I’m guessing the disruption in routine suddenly made it weird for her to sleep alone here, perhaps coupled with getting a bit older and no longer sleeping like the dead the way small children do.

What can we do to help her get to sleep without her half-sister here? This has never happened before. There don’t seem to be any new life stressors beyond that change in schedule for 2 months. She’s completely fine being here until it’s time for bed.

We limit electronics during the day and don’t allow them at all within 2hrs of bedtime. There’s a bedtime routine in place about 45 min before bed that’s never deviated from. She gets her PJ’s, brushes teeth, & they read a chapter of Harry Potter together. Everything is peachy until he leaves so she can go to sleep. Then she’s popping out every hour, well past midnight. This can’t be healthy for a growing body.

Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you. (From the USA)

New Sleeping Issue with BF’s 10yr Old/Shared Custody/Half Sibling

Answered by on -


Before we dive into what might be helpful, I want to take a moment to honor your deep commitment to helping your BF’s daughter. This is important because beyond the immediacy of the solution to this issue there will be the love and caring that you are offering to help her through this. More than any technique your deep desire to help will be what endures.

That being said, the natural disruption in the routine makes sense for throwing off her sleep. While it is hard to know the first thing that is usually recommended is to extend whatever is working. In this instance, I would have your boyfriend record the reading of the Harry Potter chapters. When she wakes up there will be a natural remedy and a reminder. Allowing her the ability to drift back off to sleep while hearing her dad’s voice may be just the antidote to the sleeping issue. This may be the cue that reminds her of the natural pattern to return to sleep. This extends the comfort of the ritual by replicating dad’s voice.

Second to this is to keep as much of what is a routine — a routine. If she is used to half a weekend then maybe keeping what is possible of that weekend possible may be of help. In other words, because of the Saturday work schedule the Friday was skipped for the every-other-weekend. I’d experiment with keeping the Friday nights and looking for an alternative to returning her on Saturday. Having such a long time between connection may be part of the issue — and keeping the Friday time — even if it is limited or has a change in the return process for Saturday may help to stabilize the situation. Again, often what remains isn’t the exact solution to the issues, but rather the loving and caring intention you are extending.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

New Sleeping Issue with BF’s 10yr Old/Shared Custody/Half Sibling

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). New Sleeping Issue with BF’s 10yr Old/Shared Custody/Half Sibling. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Mar 2020 (Originally: 13 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Mar 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.