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Adoption and Bedtime

Adoption adds a layer of complexity around an already notoriously frustrating routine: bedtime. Adopted children are more likely to have experienced abandonment or neglect and often, these feelings will be more pronounced at bedtime when a child is feeling especially lonely. It is difficult to determine how long it will take a child to become comfortable in their own home. If you adopted an older child, it’s possible that this may be their first time sleeping in their own room or bed and the environment could be totally different. 

Linda Duval is an adoption education specialist, and she compiled a list of sleeping tips for newly adopted children and their families. These tips will help build a path to independence on behalf of the child.

  • Arrange a consistent routine: It’s important to establish a structured routine that eases your child into a new sleep pattern. Introduce relaxing activities to the bedtime hour, like listening to music, reading a book, or breathing exercises. Additionally, let your child give some ideas on what helps them relax before bedtime. 
  • Reassure safety: Remind your child that you are there if they need anything during the night. Leaving a night light on or some soft music playing while they fall asleep may help them feel more comforted and safe. While your child may not feel secure enough to sleep totally alone at first, reassuring their safety will help this process. 
  • Comfort items: Have your child pick a few items that bring them comfort while they sleep. This may be a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or maybe a family photo. Letting your child choose these items could provide a level of control and security for them, easing them into bedtime with more peace and comfort. 
  • Address issues: During the day, and when your child is feeling more at ease, discuss whether or not they had issues sleeping the night before. Sometimes it may be difficult for a child to express their grief or feelings; adoption books and stories are always a good place to start. During this conversation, invite your child to help you create a plan of action for when they are having sleepless or anxious nights. 

With a little patience and a structured routine, your child will eventually work their way into a successful bedtime routine. Should sleep disruption continue, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to a trained professional. Sleep is imperative to function; don’t be afraid to address this.

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