Sleep. Blissful sleep. It’s one of my favourite things to do. I’m good at it. My ability to do so, however, has drastically reduced since I became a mother. You see, parenthood is a wonderful experience. But as someone who loves her sleep as much as I do, I was not fully prepared for the exhaustion. I would argue that most aren’t. Because even though my daughter was 9 when she joined our family through adoption, transitions are HARD. No one in our house got a lot of sleep at the beginning (though this is improving!). I didn’t expect to have such a sleep deficit.
My daughter is not a good sleeper. In her short life prior to joining our family she had moved around quite a bit, and as such had a lot of anxiety. This would manifest itself when it was time to relax and go to sleep. We’ve tried a lot of strategies. Some worked well, some worked for a short period of time, and some weren’t effective at all. Here are some that you can try in your family.
Create a routine Children who have been adopted often have had a lot of changes in their short lives. When they join a family it’s important to create routines that give that sense of security. Depending on the age of the child and other factors, this can take up to an hour to do before you want them unconscious. Ours included me taking our daughter upstairs, bath-time with songs, brushing teeth & hair, pajamas, then into bed for a story. My husband would come upstairs at story time to tuck her in. I would then turn off the overhead light and use her bedside table lamp to read her a story.
Consider co-sleeping To a degree, that is. The goal is to develop an attachment. While I’m not an advocate of co-sleeping for every family and every situation, you know your family best. For the first couple of years, I stayed with my daughter as she fell asleep every night. EVERY NIGHT. This cuts into adult time, but it meant she fell asleep and was more likely to stay asleep.
Tire them out physically Seriously. The best sleep my daughter ever has is after swimming. I would love to take her every day if only to improve her sleep. If you can do some sort of physical activity each day it will help.
Weighted blankets These can be very soothing for children who have sensory issues. These can be prescribed by an occupational therapist. I know others who have not had theirs prescribed; you need to choose what path you wish to take.
Structured dreams This sounds counter-intuitive, but let me explain. My daughter loves animals and we enjoy spending time at the zoo. My daughter also struggles with nightmares. So each night as she is falling asleep she and I discuss which animals we are going to dream about. This gives her a plan, and in restricts her imagination from going into negative thoughts and instead directs them into a more positive space. And it works.
What strategies work for your family?