Dear Parent With A Second Bed In Your Room: You’re Doing The Right Thing!

When we first got married we swore up and down that our children would never sleep in our room, let alone enter unannounced. Then we adopted children from traumatic places and our iron-clad rule washed away like sidewalk chalk in a rainstorm.

Young child sleeping in bed with teddy in background

I pull my tired body out of bed at 5:30 am, each morning, to get a jump on the day. Now that school’s back in session, there’s a routine to follow. Get up, make coffee, check email from teachers, wake up my teenagers, get them off to school, wake up my younger sons, and get them on the bus. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s the only way we’ll survive the morning. As I fumble my way through the dark of my room, my foot brushes past a small foot sticking out of some blankets below my dresser. It’s one of my sons. He’s fast asleep on a 2 inch yoga mat piled with 3 or 4 blankets.

How long has he been there? I wonder. It’s hard to tell. Maybe an hour, maybe two. It’s possible that he came in hours ago. Could’ve had an accident in the middle of the night, possibly a scary dream, or maybe he just needed reassurance.

Reassurance that we’re there. Reassurance that we’re not leaving. Reassurance that this is still his forever home.

It’s been years since he came to live with us through foster care. Almost 8 years to be exact. And his adoption was final over 6 years ago. By all accounts he’s well-adjusted and bonded to us as if we created him and gave birth to him biologically. Even though that’s not the case, we see our smile, our expressions, and our features in him. We are mom and dad, forever and ever. But there’s still that place within him. It’s a place of fear, a place of uncertainty, a place of anxiety that propels him to check every now and then…. Are mom and dad there? My room’s too dark. It’s too far away from them. I don’t like the stuff I dream about. I need to be sure I’m okay.

And so we keep a 2-inch thick yoga mat under our bed with blankets neatly folded and an extra pillow for the nights they need that reassurance. We disagree with therapists who tell us to walk them back to their room, make sure they have a nightlight, maybe a drink of water, and their favorite blanket. Tuck them safely into their bed, kiss their forehead and tell them, “It’s okay..mommy and daddy are right down the hall.” I’m sorry, but my children have come from a place where their “bed” may have instantly changed from one they were familiar with, to a stranger’s house suddenly, when a case worker and police removed them in the middle of the night. It’s forever left a scar in their memory. They may have watched police arrest their birth parents and suddenly found themselves waking up the next morning without them.

Even after many years in our home, there’s a small voice inside of our children saying, “I’m afraid, I need you, tell me you’re there. Tell me you’re not going anywhere.”

Fellow foster or adoptive parent, if you have a second bed in your room, you’re doing the right thing. Attachment isn’t built by  following a script, or bullet points in a book. Attachment is built by following your heart, and giving yourself completely to the child you have been called to love. That means traditional boundaries and parenting are out the door. That means a second bed on your floor, or another lamp shining all night long in the hallway. It may mean you don’t sleep through the night for a season, or 10.

This is the reality of parenting children from trauma. As hard as it is, you were called to do it, and you’ll succeed when you choose to create a home that accommodates this reality. In fact, as hard as it is to see, this choice will pay dividends in the future that are beautiful.

Every time I brush past a little foot, or trip over an arm hanging out from beneath some blankets on my bedroom floor, I smile. My heart fills up. I will never stop loving these babies I’ve been blessed with. I’ll never stop holding them through the hurricane of memories that haunt them in the night. I’ll never stop keeping a second bed in my room.

Question: Do you have a second bed in your room? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Kelley Clayton Berry

    Thank you! We find ourselves defending our choice to still have our son adopted from China ( and his new baby brother adopted 10 months ago) in our room. Our children thrive on security and feeling safe with us and we have seen it work wonders for them in the healing process. But it’s been on their timeline not ours. Thankful we thew out any pre-conceived notions about how parenting children from trauma should look like. The work is hard but they are so worth it. Thank u for the reminder. I needed it. Blessings

    • Kelley, it’s our pleasure. So glad it resonated with you!

  • Allisonm

    We have a twelve year old who cannot sleep on a bed (other than ours) and one who can sleep on a bed with a special blanket, but not in a bed with sheets. Our third child piles so much stuff on the bed that there is just enough room for her to squeeze in and no room for anyone else. After the child who can’t sleep on a bed destroyed his fifth bed (non-accidental urine, cutting, stabbing, attempted burning, etc.), we stopped insisting that he have a bed in his room. He has a sofa instead. He sometimes sleeps on it, but most of the time, he sleeps on his blanket pile somewhere on the floor in the living room or hall–wherever he feels most safe each night. At least half of the time, he moves with his blanket pile into our room during the night. We always have our son start the night outside our bedroom so that we have some time of privacy and intimacy available to us as a couple.

    Parenting kids with severely traumatic backgrounds often means setting aside what I think I know about how things should be done in favor of having an open mind and open heart for my children. How many beds does my son have to destroy before I get the message that beds don’t feel safe for him? Five. He knows he can have a new bed when he wants one and feels that he can tolerate it without feeling compelled to destroy it. His mental-health team does not support our forcing him to have a bed if he doesn’t want one.

    • Allison, thanks so much for sharing. Sounds like you are doing the exact thing you need to do to help me navigate this season of his life.

  • Tracy Powell

    My husband and I are just barely beginning the foster process. We have only just attended our introductory meeting and signed up for classes commencing in the beginning of November. We are only in the beginning stages of accumulating items for the ages we have agreed to foster. And, suddenly, against my initial faith that this is exactly what we are called to do, fear creeps in. It grabs me by the ankles and pulls me from the bed, waking me and filling me full of anxiety. I lay there and question if we should continue. I grab my phone, Google “what to expect when fostering”, and stumble across your blog. I started to read it. I continued. I could not stop. And then I join your page on Facebook and sign up for emails, and download the podcast you created (my first time ever even trying out a podcast). And, I feel at ease again. I feel the anxiety subsiding and peace slowly soothing me. I remember this is exactly what we are called to do. Thank you for being there, for sharing, for allowing me into your home and your family and your heart. You have made all of the difference. 💜

    • Oh my goodness, Tracy, your comment warms our hearts more than you can imagine. We are cheering for you and your husband as you begin the journey. We are so glad you found us and that you have found encouragement from our words. We created Confessions to be a lighthouse for anyone who is on the journey but being tossed around by the surf of life. Hang in there. You are not alone!

    • Amy Westby

      I have a similar story. I’m so grateful for this blog and especially the podcast. Tracy, keep looking up podcasts and blogs and articles about fostering and adoption… there’s more and more out there each day! Thank you so much Mike and Kristen for all the work you are doing to get information and resources into the hands of people in the trenches.

      • Melanie Spaur

        Word!!!!!

  • Crystal Hodgdon

    I am a biological mom and I just wanted to say that I loved your article but I also wanted to say it applies to all families…Thanks for validation of how I feel.

    • It’s our pleasure!

    • Melanie Spaur

      Word!

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  • Nora Matthews

    I remember how big of a deal it was in the licensing process to have a separate bedroom with a bed and a window, etc. And the first time I woke up with a kid who had crawled into bed with me while I was sleeping, I panicked because I thought I’d done something wrong. After three kids have done this now I realize it sometimes just comes with the territory. But you’re right, there’s so many things that the world deems as the “right” way to parent, things you’re never supposed to do or allow, that sometimes are the only option that makes sense when your kid has special needs and/or a trauma history. I think when I was younger in foster care it was a lot harder to disagree with my friends or family’s ideas of what I should be doing– and certainly harder to disagree with “professionals,” even if they had never met the kid. The longer I’ve done this the more I’ve realized that trusting your instincts is essential, and that sometimes you have to keep telling yourself that you’re the one living with him or her, and you’re the one who has to decide what is best.

    • Melanie Spaur

      You are amazing!

  • Elizabeth A Hurlbutt

    We adopted Alex who was 2 last August from foster care. We have raised three children and they have never slept in our room. Alex is exactly as you described. But he comes to bed with me and has a perfect place in the middle of our king bed. He is only 3 now and his room is across our 4000 square foot house. My husband works for railroad and he is gone about every other night if not more. So Alex is used to our routine. His room is more of a time out these days. Love that sweetie and even though I get feet to my body every once in a while, it helps both of us know we are good. He is home.

  • Melanie Spaur

    I BEYOND AGREE AND LOVE THIS!!!!!!!! GOD BLESS YOU!!!!

  • Katherine

    I agree with trusting your parent gut !!! What strength it takes to do so when you have experts telling you I am so glad I did with BOTH of our fost/adopt kiddos. Our now 8 yr old son landed in our arms and home at 6 mos young… cuddle cuteness! Yet when toddler years to young boy came upon us, so did bad dreams, fears, anxiety, melt downs, etc… And we pulled him in between us, he slept better then us both as his limbs often slapped us during night. Sometimes once he feel back asleep we would put him back in his Thomas the Train bed… We warrior parents navigate the needs these kids have. And often not able to uncover the core as they don’t even really know themselves, nor us.. BUT giving that gift of connection/attachment brings healing, and replaces the injury with NEW experiences that are safe, comforting, loving, stable, and some day – one day a bigger imprint on their hearts! My dear hubby always says that this was never plan B for how God wanted to build our family, but Plan A… I enjoyed reading this because it affirms my choices, but also not the only one doing it different and grateful doing so…. I like reading also comments below of such amazing parents and brave warriors for their kids!!! Awesome gifts
    ….

  • Jakki Lynn

    LOVE THIS. Thank you. 🙂

  • Carla De Jong-Bron

    Yes we do have a second bed in our room. Although being criticized for it numerous times. Thanks for the article now I know my gut feel was right