As a foster and adoptive mother, we are no strangers to bedtime and the art of navigating it with new placements. Here are a few tips and tricks we have learned over the years that make bedtime with your new family member just a little bit easier.
#1 Lower your expectations
This may seem like common sense, but I’m amazed at how many people expect their new children to be able to fall right into a bedtime routine. If your child is coming straight from a home where they may have experienced neglect or trauma, they may have never even gone through a bedtime routine before. When our youngest son came to us as a toddler, the first few days the bedtime process took 3+ hours a night. I would just be prepared to spend a lot of time at the beginning investing into your new child and building trust and trying to let the little things go.
#2 Night lights
When a new child comes to us, we make sure their room is very well lit, and that the hallway to the bathroom is as well. We keep nightlight throughout our house so they don’t get nervous in the middle of the night.
#3 Food and Water
If your child has food insecurity issues (which the majority of kids in care have to some extent) a really easy way to calm their nerves is by placing a basket of food by their bed the first couple weeks they’re with you. Our oldest son still keeps a few granola bars in his room, years later, but never eats them. He just likes knowing they’re there.
#4 Audio books
With kids of all ages, I ask if they want to listen to an audio book while they fall asleep. Many kids who come into foster care previously lived in homes where it could be really noisy at night (people coming and going, grownups yelling, etc.) It can feel unnerving to them to go from that to a completely silent house. I’ve found that audiobooks with an hour long timer on them can really help lull them to sleep.
#5 Sensory objects
I give younger kids a few bedtime sensory objects to play with while they listen to the audiobook in bed. Our youngest son loves those sequin pillows that you can draw designs in, and he also likes to play with a squeezey toy. This allows him to use his muscles and focus on something other than thrashing around in bed and can be very calming.
#6 Weighted Blankets
If you’re still fostering, you need to check your licensing rules before introducing weighted blankets. But for adoptive families, these can be life savers for sensory seeking kids at bedtime. I would highly recommend investing in one if you have a child who can be restless in the evenings.
#7 Keep checking in
With new children, after they’re in bed and all set up with their audiobook, I tell them I will come back and check in on them in two minutes. Then I do. Then I tell them I’ll come back and check on them in 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, etc. I do this until they fall asleep. It’s an easy way to build attachment and trust with your new child.
Hope these tips were helpful to some of you! Thanks for reading!!