Support Your Adopted Child in Developing New Eating and Sleeping Habits

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Developing New Eating Habits

When you adopt a child, there is usually an adjustment period as the child gets used to their new surroundings. If you have adopted an older child, it is important to consider their previous living situation when helping them settle into their new home.

If the child came from an environment where they did not have access to enough food, they might hide or hoard food as an adaptive behavior. You can help your child overcome this by leaving healthy and safe snacks readily available and visible to your child. By showing your child that you will provide food when he or she needs it, you are also providing the help your child needs to become attached to you.

Learning to trust the parents to always provide enough for them is a powerful part of the attachment process. In addition, its healthy for children to learn that they can stop eating when they are full, and trust that more food will be available when they need it later.

If your child struggles with eating, there could be two causes. First, it could be motor coordination problems resulting from unpleasant feeding practices he experienced in a previous situation, such as an orphanage. Second, the child may struggle with food because of a sensory aversion. To overcome this, start with whatever the child will eat or drink and gradually work up in texture and variety. Once they experience warm and nurturing feeding practices, most children begin to expand the variety and volume of their food intake.

If your child struggles with eating for more than a few weeks, consult a feeding therapist.

Developing New Sleeping Habits

The sleeping arrangement in your home may be much different from what your child has experienced in the past. New surroundings, new sounds, and new people can impact your child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Anxieties are often more intense when a child is tired, and considering that your child’s life has just changed abruptly, you should provide love and patience to help them adjust. The words, “Whenever you need me (or us), I’ll be there,” can be helpful. If your child sleeps better with you in the same room, feel free to do so. A mattress on the floor of the child’s room might help. As your child becomes more and more secure in their attachment to you, you’ll be able to gradually wean yourself out of bedtime and sleeping routines.

The goal is to provide as much support as your child needs, but as little as he or she lets you get away with. Eventually, you’ll be able to have a pleasant bedtime routine and a restful sleep for everyone.

Adapted from the International Adoption Health Services of Western Pennsylvania, Pediatric Alliance, PC