Thursday, February 05, 2015


It's 5.00am

Been awake since 4.00am. Crept down and made a cup of tea. Sitting at the kitchen table.

Sleeping is hit and miss at the moment.

One of our foster children has night terrors.

Blast from the past for me; my youngest child was so scared of the dark the only way he could cope was if there was somebody with him, so we slept in the spare room together, he and I. Until he was twelve. Tried to wean him off it, but he'd be so frightened, and after all he's my child.

Ah but it's not so simple with a foster child when they get night terrors.

For one thing you don't know the child's history with sleeping. With your own you know what sort of sleepers they were from day one. Each child has its quirks. Some babes fight it, while my eldest used to nod off whenever the 'Neighbours' theme came on.

But the main difference with fostering is the foster parent has to observe all the guidelines, which Blue Sky help you understand. They're sound principles and they make the business of pacifying and calming a panicky child in the middle of the night a job of work, but hey, that's what makes us professionals.

With my own son's night terrors it was simple; we'd climb into the double bed in the spare room, he'd snuggle up next to me and that was all it took.

Can't do that with a foster child.

Putting him to bed is not too bad; landing light on obviously, nightlight in his room (we've found these fantastic battery operated 'candles'), his door three quarters open, and - most important of all - we stay upstairs. We potter, making enough noise so he knows he's not alone. Takes us 20-30 minutes, but if it eats into Eastenders no problem, that's what the Catchup button's for.

It's when the terrors take him in the dead of night you have to be on your toes.

Tiny stuttering little whimpers with each out-breathe. Once they start I've got about five minutes before he opens his eyes, and when he's awake the nightmare becomes night terrors.

Whatever his awful dream was, when he's awake it appears to him to be real. He doesn't know where he is or where the monsters are hiding. 

I put on my dressing gown and do it right up. I slip out of the bedroom leaving the door half open. I go to his door and have a look. Sometimes he's lying under the duvet with just his head showing, one time he was kneeling up, eyes open, apparently able to 'see' things that clearly weren't there.

My Blue Sky social worker advised me on the things you can and can't do. You don't go into a foster child's bedroom unless they are in danger. It's a common sense safety thing, but it makes night-time fostering a bit more complicated. His bedroom is the box room, the smallness helps his sense of security. There's no wardrobe for anything to lurk in.

He sleeps with his head nearest the door, which means I could rest my hand on his head to wake him up if I had to, but he wakes if I gently say his name a few times.


Then again; "Lewis it's alright, Lewis. Lewis darling, it's alright."

The dreadful whimpering gives way to silent rapid breathing with little gasps as he tries to work out what's going on.

"It's alright Lewis it was a bad dream."

Then I do the same spiel I have been coached in.

I say "You're Lewis, lovely Lewis Wilson. I'm Briony your foster mum who's looking after you for a while until you go back to mummy and daddy. You're in your own bedroom in our home, and everything is alright. Everything's alright. You're a good boy Lewis, you just had a funny dream. It wasn't real Lewis, whatever happened in your dream was just a dream. Everbody has funny dreams sometimes."

As I'm telling him these comforting facts I sit down with my back against the door frame. This is to let him know I'm not going anywhere, and also to bring my presence down to his ear-level.

Sometimes he slips back to sleep quickly. Last night he told me a little of his nightmare, which I've just made notes about, because his social worker is interested in his mind.

Once he's asleep again, sometimes I go back to bed. If it's nearer morning than midnight I make that cup of tea.

Mind, I've got to get up off the floor first; has anyone else noticed that gravity is on the increase?

And I sit at the kitchen table, happy as Larry - whoever he was - and that's the God's own truth. I've never felt more useful.

And, provided it's a school day, I shall snaffle a glorious afternoon nap without a hint of guilt.

In fact it's the professional thing to do.


  1. Hi Secret Foster Carer, Freddie Flintoff opens up to Yahoo news about his fear of the dark in this article:
    Kind regards

  2. I loved reading that. :) It was so inspiring :) I'm not a foster parent or an adopter ( one day I hope too when my life is less manic !! and I have a spare bedroom ?) But it was really lovely to read. believe it or not xx

  3. Thanks. Fostering is a lovely thing.
    Best of luck with your plans