Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Adoptive Parenting: Sleep

Our incredible adoption agency is starting to host community gatherings each month covering different topics related to adoptive parenting. Adam and I went to our first one last night, and it was super informative. One of the things I was so grateful for when we started this process was women who faithfully blogged about their adoption journeys and what they learned along the way, so I want to try to return the favor by writing about what I learn at each of these gatherings.

Last night, we listened to Dr. Jennifer Chambers, of the International Adoption Clinic here in Birmingham, teach on what sleep looks like in an adoptive home. If you are adopting internationally, then you have probably heard of Dr. Chambers. She is in pretty much all of the medical videos you have to watch for your Hague training. So it was AWESOME to learn from someone who is such an expert in her field. Beyond that, she and her husband have 2 adopted kiddos, so she was able to give us some very honest true life pictures of what sleeping (or not sleeping) looks like when you are transitioning your internationally adopted child into your home.  She really set my mind at ease.

So here are the notes I managed to take:

-Sleep depravation is one of the most effective tools of torture used during war time. (Seriously, that was one of her first points! I love it.)
-She shared this not to scare us, but to emphasize the importance of sleeping, both for your adopted children and for you. When no one is sleeping, everyone is going crazy.

-Abrupt transitions are the hardest on sleep.

-Try to be flexible with structure.

-Sleep might not look the way you want it to when you bring your kids home.
-Don't be afraid to veer off from your preconceived expectations of how and where and when your child should be sleeping.
-Pick a structure and stick with it long enough to see if it has a chance of working. You might try something new and your child might not like it the first night. Don't assume right away that this
means it will never work. Give it a fair chance. But move on if you see things getting worse.
-It takes approximately THREE MONTHS to fully adjust to sleeping in a new place. (Wow!)

-Jet Lag (Nervous about this one!)

-Give yourself one day to recover for each hour of time difference.
-Get your child out in the morning sun as soon as they are awake. Getting their melanin activated
as soon as possible will help keep them awake so that sleep will come more easily later.
-Minimal outings and visitors. Car rides will put your child to sleep and prevent good sleeping later. Visitors may overstimulate your child.

-Keep an open mind about where you sleep. (This one was huge for me.)

-It is OK if you sleep on the living room floor for a few weeks. Seriously! That may be where your
child is the most comfortable. (This one struck home, because I had a 4 year old foster brother when
I was in middle school, and he used to sleep on the floor all the time. But it was what he was used
to, and it made him feel safe.)
-You might be sleeping in their room for a few months. Night time is scary for adopted children.
-Don't rush transitions. If you sleeping in their room is working, don't abruptly decide that
everything must be fine now and then just move back to your room all of a sudden. Easy
transitions are good. Once you are sleeping separately, a two-way monitor is a great way to be able
to comfort your anxious child from a distance.

-Night time is a GREAT time for attachment. 

-It makes sense if you think about it. Your child is scared or anxious, and YOU are the one providing comfort, cementing your role as the parent.

So, hopefully, you can see why it was a great night! On top of that, we got to see some adoption friends and meet some new ones. Going to classes like this makes me even more ready to get my sweet babies home!

I hope this information helps, and I want to continue to write about the things we are learning, both to share with any other adopting families out there and to have it all in one place when we FINALLY do get back home with our littles.

Sleep well tonight!


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