My Learning Curve: Feeling Safe Enough to Sleep

MLC static

Eby has always preferred sleeping in small, confined spaces. When he was young, he often chose to sleep in a sleeping bag tucked between a chair and a cabinet rather than on his bed.

One day Russ dug out the kids’ old play tent and asked Ebenezer if he wanted to put his sleeping bag inside. Eby loved it and seemed to relax in the cozy enclosure where he also put his favorite fleece blanket, teddy bear, and favorite puppy.

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Years ago I read Parenting the Hurt Child and in the chapter, Nurturing the Hurt Child, the authors write about “ways to increase [a child’s] warm and cozy feelings.” They write:

Let your child sleep in a sleeping bag on the bed instead of under a blanket. It’s cozier.

They also write about setting up a small tent in the living room for a play place.

In my experience, kids who have experienced trauma often have difficulty sleeping due to their need to “stay alert” and watch for danger. By giving them a safe and cozy spot, we lower their anxiety and hypervigilance.

When we moved Ebenezer up to his top bunk, I was worried about making him feel secure at bedtime. Then it occurred to us to put his tent on top of his bed. He learned how to climb in and out the back side of the tent near the wall, and he was so happy to be in his cozy place.

Eby-Tent2

Now that he’s older (and bigger!), he no longer sleeps in a tent, but the parenting journey doesn’t end. Now Wogauyu is struggling with nighttime fears, so we’re back to nightlights, a flashlight under the pillow and permission to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag with his head near the open door.

What matters most is that our children feel safe enough to relax and sleep. When they do, we all get a better night of sleep – and that counts for a lot in my book.

How do you help your children feel safe at night?

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

10 Comments

  1. Kaci
    February 11, 2016

    We also have done lots of white noise. One of my kids was very auditory vigilant, so any noise would put a great fear in him. We also taught him to say 'Jesus is my protector' out loud. In the middle of the night you could hear him yell, 'Jesus is my protector.'

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 11, 2016

      That 's good, Kaci, We also run a sound machine in the boys' room at night. It definitely helps.

      Reply
  2. Emily Summers
    February 11, 2016

    We got my daughter a mermaid blanket (https://www.etsy.com/listing/228355353/mermaid-tail-blanket). Not a therapy tool, just a great cozy place to snuggle 😉 two words to the wise, though – dcs paid for it out of a one time bedding allowance she was eligible for, and if I did it again I would do fleece over crochet – her toes get stuck in the crochet.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 11, 2016

      Thank you for that great recommendation, Emily!

      Reply
  3. Pam H
    February 14, 2016

    When my grandson came to me he was 14 months old and I was barely able to contain him in a crib at night. His autistic behaviors to include hyperactivity made it difficult for him to ever relax enough to sleep. Eventually I made it past the toddler bed stage to when he was old enough for the bottom bunk bed. I put it against the wall, and on the other side I put his (long, not high) dresser with a three foot long opening for him to climb in near the foot. This gave him a "cave" to sleep in. Now at 16 he doesn't need it anymore, but he does sleep with a fan on year round blowing on his face and a hall light on. During storms, he is "checking the weather" round…the…clock, so this past Christmas he got a weather radio which will blare out an advisory or alert so now he finally can sleep through storms/winter weather knowing this will wake him if need be.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 14, 2016

      Those are such great ideas, Pam. Thank you so much for sharing them – what a good grandmother you are.

      Reply
  4. Michele Gaudet Hiatt
    February 15, 2016

    We also used a tent/sleeping bag when my now 10yr old was younger and it was so helpful. A huge baseball fanatic – he now uses a technique suggested by a counselor. When a thought comes that will keep him awake and fearful he checks it against this scripture. – "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" – once he decides the thought is not of God he visualizes throwing it from outfield to home plate or hitting it out of the park. He often will tell me in the morning of the fantastic home runs and game saving throws he made the night before.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 15, 2016

      That is really great, Michele. Thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
  5. Violetta H.
    March 5, 2016

    Our lil' boy also oftenly felt insecure during the nights, and sleeping with him was not an option, also stuffed toys didn't help etc. but what helped was buying him a trained dog. Our frind used to come over with his dog, and we saw how our boy likes to play with him… At first we were really unsure because of safety reasons – letting a dog to be near a baby, but we decided to give it a try and buy a trained dog that will not bite or bark etc. We told our boy that the dog is his protector and now they are super friends and they sleep together like an angel and his dog 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 6, 2016

      That is lovely, Violetta. Claire began sleeping much better when her dog began sleeping next to her bed too.

      Reply

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