Ask AF: Sleep Disturbances

Answers to your parenting questions.


After two bumpy years, we finally got my daughter, now five, to sleep through the night.

But she’s recently had a slew of sleep problems: night wakings, anxiety at bedtime, and so on. Is this because of adoption?

What can we do? We are exhausted!


It’s always hard to tell whether or not children’s struggles are related to adoption. Either way, do all you can to reassure her. Find out if something specific is worrying her–a scary movie, a recent move, a bully at school. Ask if she has any questions about her adoption.

Continue to reinforce the fact that you will always be there for her. Family games of hide and seek demonstrate that separations end in joyful reunions. A photo key chain can help her “keep Mom close,” even when you’re apart.

Bolster your daughter’s confidence that she’s “a big five-year-old,” and remind her that you’ll stay close at night. Initially, she may want you to stay in her room. If so, wean yourself out over a period of days or weeks.

Five-year-olds respond well to reward systems–a sticker for each night that she sleeps in her own bed, with a bonus for several nights in a row. Special time with Mom is the perfect bonus–and you’ll be rested enough to enjoy it!

Sarah Springer, M.D., International Adoption Health Services of Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh


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