adoption, family

My Kids Sleep on the Floor

My kids hate to sleep in their beds. It’s just one of the vestiges of the trauma they grew up with. If you’ve seen my posts about trauma triggers around food or the bathroom, you might be familiar with this concept.  PTSD remains with them from early childhood trauma they experienced. All of them have dealt with this differently, but the triggers are pretty universal.

When Sean lived here he would panic at bedtime and we’d find him sleeping on the floor in our bedroom. He also began to sleep on the couch in the living room. He tried moving his bedroom things in there a little at a time. It was a struggle to explain why that couldn’t be his room.

Marcus spent many a night in his car when he lived here. If he wasn’t able to sleep in the car (like when the first car had a leaking roof and it was raining) he’d just stay up. Marcus wouldn’t fall asleep until the dark was gone and the sun was out. He was, however, the only child that ever slept or showered with the door completely shut.

Many of Mary’s tantrums occurred at bedtime. Eventually we moved her to a mattress in the wide hallway outside our bedroom door. It took years to get her back into her own bedroom. Even then, she’d sometimes end up sleeping on the floor in our doorway near the door. It was a sign of distress.

Carl sleeps on his bed for the most part these days. Like all of the other children, he sleeps on the floor when he is under anxiety. Sleeping with the therapy dog helps him but his night panics come and go.

He’ll never sleep with the fan on because the noise it makes blocks the sound of potential danger. He’ll never open the windows for fear of what might come through. He doesn’t want air-conditioning in his room because he’s terrified it will let bugs in.

Starting the second year of middle school was much better for Carl. Since he’s so athletic he’s managed to make a lot of friends from the teams. I think it’s a protective factor for him when it comes to keeping him from being bullied again.

After the first month of school he started sleeping on the floor. I also noticed the increased food insecurity. There was more arguing. He was irritable. He begged for one of us to remain on the same floor of the house with him while he showered. Something was definitely up. My spidey-sense was tingling.

The first week of school I usually send a letter out to the teachers explaining a bit about Carl. I also ask that they let us know ahead of time if they are going to do any potentially triggering activities like genealogy papers, baby pictures in those “All About Me” books, and reviewing material relating to domestic violence, adoption, or loss of parents.

Basically it just gives us a chance to pre-set him and walk with him through the projects. We won’t remove the trauma triggers in this world, but we sure do our best to let Carl know he isn’t facing them alone. We are here for support.

I got a disconcerting email from his Reading teacher that he was running out of every class for the entire period without using his “break card.” He was going to the guidance office and refusing to return to class. Since this is better than throwing things and punching lockers, I thought “it’s progress.” Still, why refuse to go to this one class?

Apparently it was a book club activity where groups of kids each read the same book and discussed it every day. The book Carl was assigned? City of Orphans!

Don’t get me wrong. I love Avi as an author. The historical fiction aspect of this book has some insightful facts. The adoption narrative with getting rid of the “bad” parent to live “happily ever after” with the adoptive parent makes me want to vomit. Trauma isn’t magically “all better” after adoption!

Of course I addressed the matter with the teacher right away. There wasn’t anything we could do to get my kid to sit with his peers and discuss orphans. Not happening. If she wanted him back in class we would need to work together. At first she tried to protest that in middle school the books would begin to have more adult content.

I may have been a little tough on the teacher. I had to revisit the issue later when I was calm. I explained that it’s not like we wish to shield our son from more adult content or any possible triggers. Heck, he’s probably been exposed to more “adult content” in his first 5 years of life than many of us have ever seen!

We just want to prepare him ahead of time. We also don’t think he should have to be the group representative explaining adoption to the other 5 kids in his club. All I’m asking for is a little sensitivity around this issue. Don’t exempt him, just include us.

What I want is for my boy to be able to sleep in his bed again.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.


23 thoughts on “My Kids Sleep on the Floor

  1. C says:

    If this teacher was aware of his history and read that letter you sent, the teacher is at fault. Some teacher are very rigid and by the book. It sounds like that may be part of this issue. two questions feel free not to answer. Do the kids ever voice concerns about things that they are held back from by tigger? Mary may be doing this already, but do the kids do any kind exposure therapy? I know it’s scare and can get really bad but it can get very close to extinguishing some of the triggers.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Really? That’s too bad. I really wish you’d consider sharing your story someday. I know I learn a lot from survivors like you and C and other readers. Other foster/adoptive parents, other survivors, and everyone can learn so much from you. It’s just a thought.


      • skinnyhobbit says:

        ❤ I’m not a teacher but know teachers. The system in SG is widely envied and the US is trying to follow how we produce high math and science results in students. But that has huge costs and the hyperfocus on grades is killing children and teenagers via suicide quite literally. The traumatised are punished and seen as troublemakers and I’m so very cynical.

        I’ve thought of sharing parts of my story (and have in confidential spaces but I wouldn’t mind emailing you 🙂 ) but there’s always fear of being identified, partly because I suffered sibling abuse and my parents are upstanding good citizens 🙂

        My therapist says I’m opinionated haha, and I am… If one thing I share can help someone, then my life would not be in vain because I’ve struggled for years with worthlessness. The fact that you care so much for your kiddos, I can’t even find the words to express how much it means to me to know that parents like you exist. My own parents loved only the image they sought to mold me into and because they used Christianity to justify their abuse, it’s been a long journey for me to realise that there are religious people who actually affirm and love their traumatised, LGBTQ (or potentially LGBTQ) children.


  2. janohio47 says:

    Your advocacy for your children is admirable. We’ve just gone through an issue at school that was very hurtful and painful for both us & the 10-year-old grandson who we have custody.. It brought back memories of when my oldest son was in 3rd grade & the teacher asked him to tell his feelings about both being adopted and parents divorcing. Son was very introverted & this was crushing for him. I didn’t approach the teacher about what she had done, I wasn’t brave enough. I still grieve the damage that teacher did my child many years ago. Since we have our grandson, I work harder to be his advocate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really think even in the last 10 years or so the adoption narrative has changed. I think in the 80s there was a sort of movement to have people describe their differences and how it feels. It was supposed to bring about empathy or something. That was an awful thing the teacher did. I remember kids of different races doing it in my kindergarten class. It was interesting for us but looking back it must have been uncomfortable to them. That’s cruel. I’m sorry about your son and grandson

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a teacher this makes me crazy! It is not hard to know your kids well enough to know what might’ve an issue. It only takes a couple of days or a quick look into files to learn about important things like that. You were probably nicer then I would of been.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. MS says:

    My daughter sleeps on the floor too. At first she would only sleep under her bed sitting up behind a chair. It has improved and in the temporary accommodation we are in at the moment she can see me from her mattress (which is on the floor), so she is better at staying put. Still sleeps with the lights on all night though and can’t sleep until I go to bed too. It’s grim what our kids have to wrestle with just to be able to go to sleep x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Being the advocate is hard work and never ending but so so important. I don’t think they prepare adoptive or foster parents for that part of parenting their kids. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I keep coming back here to comment on this, and can’t find words other than it was completely inappropriate of Carl’s teacher. That’s it.

    I really struggle with this notion that seems to prevail that it’s the job of the “different children” to teach their peers. Nope. Carl shouldn’t have to sit there and be their “example” of adoption. Especially since it has such a flawed narrative, it could easily lead to awkward questions of “How come you aren’t better now that you’re adopted. Did you get adopted by BAD PEOPLE?”

    We didn’t often read books with physically disabled characters when I was in school, but I remember when we read Heidi, being asked why my parents just didn’t give me goats milk… and if I wasn’t trying hard enough to walk, because Klara Sesseman tried even though it hurt and look at her!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are you for real??? Omg I’m so sorry that happened to you. Thank you for this response. The whole “why isn’t that kid perfectly healed” after adoption is frequent. And of course, I’m the bad parent that won’t get my kid in line.

      The truth is he’s come far. And I read your blog so I can say that so have you! Survivors are strong. The ignorance of some is just their weakness.


  7. Pingback: Explaining PTSD in the Classroom | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

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