Pre-teen's meltdowns not age-appropriate

My child had meltdowns like clockwork, especially on Saturday mornings (after a long "catch up" sleep...) If she did not eat within 1/2 hour of waking, meltdown. That lasted five years, from 4 to 9. Then she got more of a handle on it, over time as I continually mirrored to her, telling her this is the pattern I see. She is older now, and we have talked about her pattern, but she still lashes out when she feels bad. It is so hard. For example, when we moved I turned down a lovely place because it was a fishbowl in a cluster of homes, all one bedrooms, because I was worried about the proximity of others and her noise. Even in a duplex which is all I could afford, they have said something, but my efforts to restrain and help could be misconstrued I worry sometimes. Does this sound familiar to anyone? In the back of my mind I'm scared she has childhood diabetes or bipolar, because she got terribly addicted to sugar (also the cause of certain meltdowns). She had night terrors as a toddler and won't go to bed and can be very difficult about food, bedtime, moods. Her father thinks she is depressed, yet he does very little for her. She has mixed feelings about him, because he was quite mean and preyed on us for years. The scientist in me doesn't know how to tease this apart. It was always hard to get her to go to bed, just really need to remove all stimuli and have her be in the dark. She does only show this "side" with me, and things can turn ugly quickly, even if she was initially playing, gets too rough or just swings to sadness (if I reprimand her) but that could be a mistake on my part. It can be hard to talk with her now (knows everything) but she glosses over her homework, and one friend said unsympathetically she is just lazy. She seems to crave sweets and carbs, and it is hard to get her to choose health. She will let a smoothie sit unless I am there. Trouble is I can't be there because of my commute. It is all pretty overwhelming. I wish we could move to a large shared house and the two families look out for the two kids or I could get my nerve up to have a preschool in home to cut the commute and be with her more. With the prices today, I might have to move out of the area... I feel constrained on all sides and have no advocate or go to. Her dad says he doesn't want to hear us argue, and he won't speak to me alone, part of our issues held over from when I asked him to be discreet and not talk on front of her.

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Eating a lot of carbs and sugar are *not* indications of type 1 diabetes.  Excessive thirst and very frequent urination are typical symptoms.  I can't speak to the behavioral/mood issues, but it does sound like a visit to your doctor could help.  

This sounds extremely familiar. I went through the same thing with my daughter. I can't urge you strongly enough to get a Neuro Psych Evaluation done for your daughter. They finally discovered when mine was in fifth grade that she suffered a severe anxiety disorder and that that was the cause of her meltdowns. Once that was understood, we could talk about what was happening in a different way and seek solutions that made sense. They do the evaluations at Cal's Dept of Psychology on a sliding scale. I believe they also do them at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. 

Dear Mom:  How difficult this is for you.  You describe a family in turmoil, not just because of your daughter's behavior, in fact she may be responding to the family's issue (or at least her issue) of living with her father who you let back into the house although you describe as being a person who was "... quite mean and preyed on us for years."  Maybe nothing is going on with your daughter, except she's acting out about the serious unresolved past.   (Certainly sugar & processed carbs don't help anyone but what if she's just medicating her feelings?.)  Please start somewhere in this mess.  You have influence over one person, always have, and that's you.    May you have the resolve, courage and energy to do what needs to be done.  My prayers are with you.   ( There are local churches that offer sliding-fee therapy to the public-- please research what's possible.  BTW: I suggest you NOT tell your daughter nor your husband once you start getting help, at least not in the beginning. Neither will be able to understand, cheer you on, not at this point in their lives.) 

Oh this sounds so tough! My daughter has a similar profile. It turns out she has anxiety the causes her to melt down. Finding the right therapist was the key for us. We tried a few before we found one that helped, now, three years later melt-downs are much rarer and we know how to handle them. She still has anxiety and panic attacks at times but we're managing much better. I hope can find a therapist that will not only work with your daughter but also help you as parents figure out how to react to melt-downs. For us it turned out that not engaging was the key to helping things calm down. I also started doing mindfulness meditation myself and that helped me handle her anxiety and sensitivity much better (not perfectly mind you!). Good luck and I know how tough it can be to have a sensitive, volatile child. 

Just to clarify to anon, I'm a single mom with full custody and full financial responsibility. Her dad sees her once or twice a month. He was mean to me only. He took things belonging to us, and it took a toll on us. I just didn't want to write much about her father but feel I have to clarify. Thank you for replies. It may well be anxiety. God knows I have it.

Dear Mom, In listing the history, you noted that your child suffered from night terrors. Have you ever considered getting her evaluated for sleep apnea? Many of the behaviors that you are describing are similar to what our own child exhibited, including night terrors.  In our case, the dentist was actually the one to notice that the tonsils were so grossly enlarged that he could not properly recline. He battled bed time for years without a proper diagnosis. It was exasperating and quite worrisome for all. The ear, nose , and throat specialist noted that individuals with sleep apnea are primed to keep themselves awake. Cycle after cycle of poor sleep with critical deficits leads individuals to reach for sugary items to prop themselves up for needed energy. Also, meltdowns are common for children with apnea from being so sleep deprived. Our child's case was fixed literally overnight with a removal of both tonsils and adenoids at age five.