Establishing a positive sleep environment for a foster child is quite often one of the bigger tasks for a foster carer. Being in a new place with strangers does not translate into safe sleeping conditions, and any child that comes into your home is likely to be on high alert regardless. Your job is to help them through this bit and create a secure base where they can feel safe enough to let down their guard and get some proper sleep. Here are five ways you can do that.
Have A Routine
Every adult looking after children must appreciate the value that creating a solid routine brings. This bit will depend on the age, background, and sleeping habits of the child you are looking after. There is a strong possibility that they will be looking to you to tell them what happens at bedtime, even if they don’t say it out loud. Think carefully about what is fair, and be flexible and responsive to their needs as you put something in place. For younger, pre-school-aged children there are tickboxes like having a wind-down hour before you go up to bed, supper, and bathing. For older kids such as teenagers, it is more about making sure they are well fed, have a safe space to unload any worries, and manage things like technology use and staying up late.
Keep a Journal
One thing you can do is assess the patterns of behaviour in a journal. This journal can be just for you, but some carers like to encourage their looked-after children to join in with the process. However, this journal will be a tool and this tool will enable you to embrace pattern recognition, and therefore make changes where they are necessary.
Ask for Training
Every carer has a support network. Private agencies like fosteringpeople.co.uk will always be on call to assist with the ups and downs that foster carers face during their time with a looked-after child, and this is great. There are training modules that you can participate in so that you are acquiring as much knowledge as necessary to understand the full scope of sleep challenges. This is useful if you are having a particularly troublesome patch where positive sleep is not yet happening.
Make A Safe Space
No one can switch off in a place they don’t feel safe in. Your job, from the very first day, will be to be that safe space. Make sure their bedroom is everything they need it to be, and keep the tension out of bedtime by remembering your training, staying neutral, and regulating yourself at all costs.
Never Be Afraid to Mix it Up
There is a common misconception that you must continue down a path once you’ve committed to yield the best results. However, when it comes to children, it is time to throw that out of the window. If something isn’t working, you should never continue to force it on them. Be responsive to their preferences, personality, and behaviours, and don’t be afraid to mix up your approach.
Establishing positive sleep environments is something all foster carers must do. Remember to bounce off your child and do what works for them.