Adoptive children and the risk of routine change

April 14, 2013 14 Comments

adoptive children sleeping routine

Adoptive children’s routines are vital in the development of the child. For many parents, routines will be in place which are guidelines; they are flexible. For adoptive children, a simple deviation in routine could cause a huge set back for their stability in that home – care needs to be exercised.

This is not to say that if you hold the child’s left hand instead of the right one day, they will have a breakdown, but each child is different, and often they come with idiosyncrasies that need to be respected.

I am dying to take the boy down south to stay at his grandparents, but we are being very cautious. For him, sleeping in a different room, or even a different bed could send his young brain into meltdown. We have achieved so much with his attachment so far, I would hate to undo our (and his foster carer’s) hard work, with a whimsical trip to my folks.

I posed the question to my twitter friends and got some excellent responses, but it occurred to me that we have to take a leap of faith at some stage with his attachment, if we are going to have any semblance of a normal life.

Indeed, becoming overly cautious could be to his detriment. I would not want to be in a position where I am refusing sleepovers, holidays and school trips for the sake of my own deluded sense of attachment. Surely some form of common sense has to be applied here?

The question is how, and where?

Adoptive children – sleeping routine

Our concern, as I mentioned, is his sleeping arrangements. We are going to Centre Parcs in the summer, and he needs to be comfortable away from home, so that leap of faith I mentioned, we are starting to take.

What I realised is how well the adoption introductions went. This was with great help from the foster carer, but the boy did effectively move house with relatively little disruption. The last thing I want him to think is that he is moving house again, but I have become more confident that he has the capacity to cope with a slight routine change.

What my wife and I decided was to keep one major thing constant, and start preparing him in small steps. The one big constant is us. We put him to bed, we get him up again, and we give him his milk. If we keep this constant, the disruption should be minimised.

Stage one is underway; he is now happily sleeping in his travel cot in his own room for his naps. This allows him to get used to both his cot and his room in small doses. We are continuing to sleep him in his own cot during the night.

So far, so good I am happy to report, although his habit of running his hand across the travel cot mesh, like some kind of prison inmate can be irritating.

The next stage is a nap in the travel cot away from home, this is due at the end of the month, I am excited and anxious in equal measures.

To those who are unfamiliar with adoption issues, this may sound like we are giving the boy unnecessary bubble-wrap treatment, but I would stress the importance of a routine with adoptive children.

All children need boundaries and routine, but to a twenty month old brain that has been exposed to uncertainty, doubt and change, it is essential that he is given some kind of stability from which he can begin to trust the very people he depends on.

My thanks to The Puffin Diaries, Sally Donovan, Mumdrah, Katie A (@drspouse) and b.j (@inca2) for their advice on this subject.

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About the Author:

Andrew is an adoptive father, and stay at home dad. Having adopted his son in January 2013, he is a new adoptive parent, but well versed in the adoption process. He is a married, coffee drinker, Xbox addict, and a Marketing graduate. Andrew McDougall is an alias he uses to protect the identity of his adopted son.

Comments (14)

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  1. lindsay says:

    i think you are being so thoughtful and proactive that your boy will have as little disruption as possible. there are so many ways that you can try and help prevent some disruption and it sounds like you are covering your bases. i know some people who have also done things like take the sheets off their childs bed and bring them to the vacation bed so they smell and feel familiar. goodluck and have fun!

  2. Vicki says:

    You are so mindful of potential problems that I think you’ll be just fine.
    Can I offer something else to try? When you talk about going away, also talk about when you come home. So ‘we’re going away for a few days to have some fun, and when we come home we’ll sing songs in the car, or have fish and chips for dinner’. This advice was given to me, so going away and coming home get associated with each other.

    Thanks for linking up to #WASO, and have fun on your trips!
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  3. Sarah says:

    We had a night away a couple of months after the boys moved in. Looking back it was quite soon, but like yourselves, the boys seemed to cope very well with the move between FC and us and their attachment was positive. I think you will know if it’s right, that gut feeling, don’t be ruled by others be guided. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things.

    Thanks for linking up with The Weekly Adoption Shout Out.

  4. It’s true that things that seem small fry to others can be massive events for our children! I was going to say about taking the same bedding, but someone else already mentioned that. Sounds like you’re really making great preparations for this. We’re moving house soon and I’m concerned about how to ease this transition for both my adopted child and my foster child. We’ve visited the house several times, and taken some of their toys there for them to play with even before we’ve moved in so that it becomes a familiar space. To make it worse, it looks like my foster child will transition to a new adoptive home shortly after we move – bad timing, and something I’d hoped to avoid, but we’ll have to make the best of it.
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  5. Mumdrah says:

    Its a tough call, but i think there is a focal point where – go too far past it – and you are creating as many problems around change. I think once you know he will look to you for reassurance, go for it and see it out. Then reassess. CHT was intrepid pretty quickly once we did a few strange houses; sleeping under an upturned boat on a river bank within a year, and loved every single second because she saw I was having fun and treating it as ‘normal’. But them, she was older.

    Oh, and Grandparents are different. They are family. Mx
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  6. claire says:

    Its been mentioned above but, we also talk about coming home when preparing for holidays. I also buy something like a craft activity and make a point of saying ‘we’ll do that after holiday when we come home’. We also do a lot of talking about the future here, we often talk about how we envisage their weddings wiith daddy walking them down the isle and how I’ll wear a lovely hat and cry happy tears as I see them in their beautiful dress, and we talk about how daddy will teach them to drive and other things like that. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet that this is forever, but one day it will :)

  7. Threebecomefour says:

    You write well about something that is a worry for all adoptive parents. We took Katie for an overnight in a hotel about 4 months after she moved in. We talked lots about who we were going to visit and how many sleeps we would have and when we would be coming home. She was actually fine with all that part but what we have. Touched is the first night or so of being anywhere new generally brings disrupted sleep. We had a blow up Peppa Pig bed which she got used to before we went and we snuggled that into her bed in the hotel, and elsewhere since. We know we have to accept a difficult bedtime but she’s now confident in where she lives and that she will be coming home again. Good luck.

  8. Hello! Firstly I love your blog : ) I have subscribed to it via email.
    When Jazz first came to me we went to see my friend on the Isle of Skye. All was well until my friend unwittingly said “this drawer is especially for your clothes Jasmin”
    She freaked out thinking my friend was the next new mum. Managed to make it through but taught me to prepare well as you are doing. Routine has always played a really big part in our lives as an adoptive family and there is definately comfort in it.
    Thanks for your writing x

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