How do I cope with an over-exhausted child after time with the other parent?

A toddler holding crayons

My daughter comes home over-exhausted from her one night a week at her Dad’s. The next day she is so irritable because she is still so tired. What can I do? I really want to stop overnights. These have only started 3 weeks ago but I don’t think my 2.5 year old girl is coping


Dear Sarah,

Your worries and feelings of distress are completely normal, especially when dealing with something as sensitive as the wellbeing of your young daughter. I understand that this is a difficult time for you, and as someone who has worked with separated families for decades, I would like to provide some guidance.

First and foremost, it is essential to understand that your daughter’s routine and environment have recently changed. It’s common for children, especially those as young as 2.5 years, to require time to adapt to a new schedule. This could be the reason why she’s coming home over-exhausted.

Here are some steps you can take to ease the transition:

  1. Communication: Try talking to the child’s father about your concerns. Open and honest communication between both parents can lead to a better understanding of what’s happening during the overnight stays. Perhaps Dad is unaware of how the late nights are affecting your daughter, and a simple conversation could solve the issue.
  2. Create a consistent bedtime routine: Work with your daughter’s father to establish a consistent bedtime routine that will be followed at both homes. This can include a familiar story or a lullaby that can help your daughter fall asleep comfortably. Maintaining consistency can help your child adapt more quickly.
  3. Monitor the situation closely: It’s been only three weeks, and it might be worth giving it a little more time to see if your daughter adapts. If the problem persists, you may wish to consult with a family mediator or a child consultant like myself to ensure that the arrangements are in the best interests of the child.
  4. Consider professional help if needed: If the problem continues and conversations with the father are not leading to any solutions, you may wish to seek professional assistance. A family mediator or a child specialist can work with both parents to find the best possible solution that takes into account the child’s needs and both parents’ concerns.
  5. Encourage open dialogue with your daughter: Even at her young age, your daughter may be able to express her feelings or show signs of what’s bothering her. Encourage him to talk or use play to communicate with you. This may provide you with clues to what might be going on during her nights away.

Remember, you’re not alone in this, and seeking help from family, friends, or professionals can make this process much more manageable. The most important thing is to keep your child’s best interests at heart and to work together with her Dad to find the best solution for your family.


Leanne Bamford

Child Consultant

*Name changed

This article is general information only.  If you need legal advice, consult a specialist family lawyer 

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