Foster Care & Sleep: How to make bedtime easier on everyone

by Katie

I was busy cleaning, it had been a long day and my husband knew I was at my end.  So he told me he would put Addison to bed.  She loves her daddy & this wasn't the first time he put her to bed, but the normal routine is mom puts her to bed.  She gets in her jammies, I read a book, pray with her, give her a little snuggle & then turn the lights off.

Except we wrecked her routine.
Dad was putting her to bed.
She turned into a hot mess. 
Crying so much that she was struggling to breathe.

I went upstairs to calm her down.

And then it hit me.

If Addison, who has known her dad since the day she was born in the middle of a summer's night four years ago, who loves Daddy snuggles and loves their special time togther, if my child struggles with routine change then how much harder is night time for children when not just their night time schedule changes, but the bed, the people, the space....everything changes for a child who is pulled from their home & placed into a strangers home.

We have discovered bed time is basically terrible when a child comes into our home.

I believe each parent or set of parents have to decided on how to handle bed time, but this is how we do bedtime with children who come into our home:

1.  We let them know bedtime is coming, about 30 minutes prior or more. We let the children know by telling them. We usually say, "30 minutes until bedtime.....15 minutes until bedtime....5 minutes until bedtime."

2. We do something special before bed, like watch a movie to help them relax.  We found this to be helpful because of the tension, fear, stress, anxiety that bedtime can cause. Children just do not know what to expect. 

3. Then we gently take the child to bed. With our younger ones, we carry them to their beds and for our older ones we hold their hands going up the stairs. The routine is the same as our biological children--we put on jammies, brush teeth, go potty, read a story, and say our prayers. I've found with both my biological children and children in care that it's best to keep a routine, but make it short & fairly quick.

4. If the child is terrified of a dark room we either leave the hall light on or place a night light in their room.

5. Then comes the "fun" part.  Expect no sleep that night and likely for next few nights.  When the child gets out of bed, gently put him back in his bed and try hard not to say anything.  Be quick & quiet. If the child is crying we either hold him for about 30 seconds or rub their back. 

Night time can be a very scary time for children in care because the child is in a stranger's home.  It will be terrible at first, but a sleep schedule will form and the child will eventually sleep in the bed without getting up 50 times.

Keep on mama or papa, you got this! 

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24

Katie bio pic.jpg

Katie is a 30 year old mama to three children, twins that are 9 and a 4 year old. She has been married to her husband, Douglas for 10 years. They have been foster parents for two and a half years.