Bedtime is probably my favorite part of being a foster parent. There are some really great things about bedtime that I love.
Here are 4 ways to make bedtime a really positive part of your foster or adoptive child’s day, and one thing you should never do.
Many children do not like to go to bed but if you make it a positive part of the day it can really be a great thing.
Here are the four things we do to create a great routine at bedtime!
1. Bath time!
Bath time should be a fun thing for foster children. They should have plenty of time to clean themselves and also have some time to play in the tub.
Some children who are in foster care have had very bad experiences around bathing so you need to be very careful about this.
1. Don’t force it.
Make sure that it is positive for the child. If they are not enjoying their bath than don’t force anything.
2. Age appropriate.
The bath-time routine needs to be appropriate to the age of the child. A baby needs help bathing so you should obviously be in the room with them.When a child is in their toddler years they will need to begin washing themselves. Teach them how and show them but make sure they are doing it themselves as soon as they are able.
As children get older they need privacy. Give it to them. It is OK check in to make sure they are getting clean, but leave the leave the room and let them bath in privacy.
Warning! Foster parents need to make sure they don’t put themselves in a position where they could be accused of anything inappropriate. Children are vary perceptive and they can use things that happen to accuse you of something. If you have not planned ahead and made sure you are protected it could cause problems for you.
2. Read a book together
This is my favorite part of our bedtime routine! This one obviously changes as the age of the child changes. We alway read a book to them at night. There are all kinds of reasons that reading to children is good but lets just look at a few.
1. They learn language
Children learn how to speak and what words sound like and mean by listening to us talk. We as parents need to remember that. Sometimes the way we speak in general is not the best language for a child to learn. We have noticed that the way some of the children who have come into our home speak is just terrible. Reading to them is a good way to consistently model correct language to a child.
2. They Engage.
Most therapists will say that one of the most important things you can do for a child in care is to engage with them. Reading to them is a perfect way to build engagement into your day.
3. One on One time
A lot of children who are in foster care or who are adopted were neglected in their earlier years. Reading time is a great chance for you and your child to be together just the two of you.
Tip! Read a book to each of your children separately. It is tempting to just read a book to all of them at once but you will miss the One on One time if you do.
3. Highs and Lows
This is another one of my favorites. It’s pretty simple, you just ask them each day what their hi (favorite) thing that happened and what their lo (least favorite) thing was for the day. Doing this with your children will give your child a chance to express themselves and also helps them to recognize how things make them feel. A fairly common difficulty children who have been abused or neglected experience is recognizing and expressing emotions. Highs and lows is a great way to help them recognize some of their emotions. A bonus for you is that you can get a sense of what is going on in your foster or adoptive child’s world.
Tip! I like to start with the low so that you can end on a positive note.
Tip-x2! Be ready to give your high and low if they ask.
4. Pray together
This one is huge for us. We spend some time talking about what we want to ask God for and give our children a chance to voice their concerns and anxieties. Some nights they want to pray and it is really fun to listen to them pray. It is also a great way to help reassure a child who is fearful.
We usually pray that God will help us sleep well, give us good dreams, and protect each of us in the house and keep us safe.
If you are a family who doesn’t pray one thing you can do is just spend a few minutes right before the child goes to sleep reflecting on what we are feeling. Sometime foster children are really resistant to sharing so don’t force it. If they don’t want to then you share something (that’s appropriate for the child to hear). Eventually they will most likely begin to feel more comfortable and start to share things.
This nighttime routine gives children a chance to talk if they want to, but it also creates chances to connect with them and for them to decompress from the day and relax a little bit.
And now the One thing you DON’T want to do.
NEVER take away this time as a form of discipline or punishment.
I think it is important to make sure that the entire bedtime routine is a positive and safe time for the children. Using it as a way to punish your child will send the wrong message.
We are not experts at this!
These are just things we do and have found to be useful or effective. Some of the things we do are things we learned from our own parents and some are things we have learned from other parents and foster parents. Some come from things our therapists have shared. The point is you don’t have to be a therapist or something to come up with good ways to help your child or children, you just need to be creative and open to learning new things.
We would love to hear your ideas.
Please leave us a comment with something you do at bedtime that you have found to be really positive.