29 answers

I Have a New 15 Year Old Foster Son in My Care Who Can't Wake up in the Morning

I just had a 15 year old sweet boy placed in my care who can not wake up in the morning.
He sets the alarm clock, it goes off for 40 minutes, wakes up everyone in the household except for him. I knock on the door loudly which doesn't help either.
The only thing that works is going into his room and yelling in a very loud voice "wake up, wake up." I don't like doing it for two reasons: 1. I don't feel it is appropriate for me (the mom) to enter his room. 2. I don't want our first interaction in the morning to be a tense one.
Any ideas?
(This kid goes to school out of state so if he does not wake up in time he will miss his ride and will not attend school.)

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Oh, that's SUCH a hard age for waking up!!! Has he tried a "light alarm clock"? They gradually get lighter and lighter, like a sunrise, until the room is fully lit at the time you need to get up.
Another thing that might work, especially at that age - a phone call? My (17 year old) little sister can sleep through anything...but will answer her cell phone in her sleep!
Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful

We suffer the same thing.. my son wont hear a bomb going off next to him... we got him an alarm clock thats 'extra loud' and told him if he misses his morning bus he has to walk to school... we are 2 mile away... but he has walked it many times. Eventually they learn to listen for the buzz. I used to frustrate myself calling out to them and wake them up but I never got anywhere... the idea of missing the bus and walking to school helped fix that problem quickly. Good Luck

There is a vibrating alarm clock available through productso for the deaf. You put it under his pillow and it vibrates, waking him up. Works like a charm!

More Answers

Have a talk with him when he is 100% coherent about YOUR dilemma in getting him up in the a.m. Ask him what would work. My Jekyll/Hyde teenage daughter was the same way, however, she HATED going to school to begin with. Does he like coffee? My daughter loved flavored coffees and I'd go into her room, turn on the lites, and say GET UP NOW, COFFEE'S BEING SERVED IN THE MAIN DINING AREA!! (like a hotel) -- for some strange reason, THAT got her going!! Alarms did nothing, I got more response by sending her a text. Those days were horrible!! This too shall pass has always been my motto.....and it does......

1 mom found this helpful

Dear R.,

I've raised two teenagers and always said they should make school hours from 1:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. I think that's when teenagers function best. My daughter was not a problem, but my son was a nightmare to wake up. His internal clock changed when he became a teenager and sometimes he could not fall asleep until around 1 in the morning so he could not get up in the morning. No matter what we tried he was not tired, he is the same way at 24 years old and fortunately works from 3:00p.m. until 11:00 p.m. as a residential counselor for troubled teens. He is a night owl and when he has an early day sometimes he just stays up because he can't fall asleep before 3:00 a.m. I think with some kids teens it is common. It is a fact that their internal clock changes and there sleep patterns change as well. As long as you are sure he is not messing with drugs or alcohol (can also cause this problem) then it could be his normal sleep pattern. I know he is a foster child, however does he have to go to school so far away or is there another option? I commend you for taking in a foster child, it is a wonderful selfless commitment. It takes special people to do what you and your husband are doing. Happy Holidays!!

1 mom found this helpful

1) Why is it inappropriate for you to go into his room? You are the mom. The room is in your house. It is important in my opinion to maintain that his room doesn't mean that it is off limits to you. I have known people who have done that and every single one of them regretted it because the kids came to hide various things knowing the parents would never come in whether it was condoms, drugs, pets they weren't supposed to have, etc.

2) Does he have a doctor? What time does he go to bed? Perhaps blood work should be done to make sure his levels are where they are supposed to be. He could just be dealing with whatever stresses are going on in his life. You say he is a "new" foster son so I can't imagine what he is coming from is very good and now here he is in a brand new situation. He probably has a lot on his mind. I used to wake up with my alarm clock perfectly but in the past year and a half, I have had a ton of stress and things going wrong and now I don't hear mine either.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi R.
Congrats on new infant &
Congrats on taking in foster child. It is a difficult task.
As a former foster parent, and mother of our own 4, I am guessing that you have not had too much experience with being the barer of consequence. (this is an edit because of some responses--I was assuming you are not much older than him having a young child-- the things he can accuse you of are horrendous, and entering his space while he is sleeping is apt to bring on that response-- please inspite of it being your house and your right, please check with foster parents rules, and social worker before thinking it is your right, because it is also his right to tell why you had entered and that may not be pretty. Each state is different age wise, but children's accusations hold with it arrests and convictions, records, nice kids do mean things when they don't like what you are doing. Protect yourself, and let social services know your rules)
What is the ultimate consequence of not catching his ride? Do you then take him? Does he miss school? How much school can he miss?
I told my foster kids on entering, those old enough to care of course, that I don't enter their room to wake them. The door will be left open when they were not there always. If the room was a mess, they stayed there with me on watch til it was clean. I don't do rides, I didn't do rides for my own. If they missed the bus they walked. Probably not an option for you. If they didn't get up in the morning bedtime was 1/2 hour earlier the next night, til they were able to get up. NO electronics were in their room so they were not up all night playing on a computer or watching tv. Oh, my own didn't have those privileges either. If they didn't get to school on time they were mine to work all day. If they choose to walk to school albeit late then they owed me whatever hours of school they missed. Mine had that consequence too and mine never opted for that because they knew about that work for mom all day meant working because it was my punishment always for everyone and for every behavior. There is always housework to do and trust me if the house was up to snuff, we had yard or barn work which I could deal out. It was much more effective than sending to their room, time out, or whatever else you might hear about.
None of mine ever did sneak out of the house, or run away, etc. I am not sure you can say that with a new 15 year old in your house. At 15 I would also settle the issue of girls. My oldest foster child was 13 and after him we chose not to have any older so we didn't have to deal with "love" issues.
If a child won't, can't, doesn't want to, or whatever get out of bed in the AM, I assumed they were not getting enough sleep. With a 15 year old, I would question if he knocked himself out so he would sleep. Drugs, choking game, inhalants == just a thought. I know that you were thinking heavy sleeper and that is probably the problem, no one ever expected him to get up on his own.
You may want to transition by saying you will only knock once, but I would never go into the room. I don't go into the room to wake my own up. They are expected to get up with an alarm clock just like the rest of society. I always figured teenagers had to be used to that for college life.
God bless you with this new adventure of parenting
Since I am old enough to be your mom I always remind you to talk to your mom. She may have some great stories and tips you will enjoy.
K. SAHM married 38 years. == adult children 37 coach; 32 lawyer, married and dad to our first grandson born this summer, and twins 18: one majoring in fine arts and the other in journalism as they finish up their first semester at college after homeschooling. Foster kids who I still hear from == 35 married, & great mom of 3, 24 secretary and mom to 2, 37 career soldier. The rest were reunited with family after a difficult time but all was well.

1 mom found this helpful

Oh, that's SUCH a hard age for waking up!!! Has he tried a "light alarm clock"? They gradually get lighter and lighter, like a sunrise, until the room is fully lit at the time you need to get up.
Another thing that might work, especially at that age - a phone call? My (17 year old) little sister can sleep through anything...but will answer her cell phone in her sleep!
Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful

First of all i think you have every right to go into his room! like you even said, you're the mom! it's your home and since you knock before entering at least you are respecting him by trying to make your entrance known.
As far as waking up, my 10 year old step-daugher isn't that bad but can still be difficult to get up in the morning. Instead of yelling wake up, I go over to her bed, turn down the covers just a bit, rub her arm a little just to start her moving out of dreamland and say "goodmorning sunshine!" in a normal tone... usually at this point she still hasn't moved a muscle, but then i go over to the lights and give her a count of 3 and at 3 the lights come on... i learned i had to do that or she'd go right back to sleep... and the lights being on is enough to get her out of bed. I understand not wanting the first moments to be tense ones, but since you said the only thing that works is yelling loudly, you may have tried these things already...
If you don't want to have to wake him every morning i agree with the other posts, there are unique alarm clocks that do things like vibrate the bed or turn on the lights or are extra loud (although i'm sure you wouldn't want any more noise since you said it already wakes everyone up in the house!)

If you think its a serious problem you should probably have him checked out by a doctor for a deficiency or some other problem. A friend of mine was always having an unusual amount of trouble waking up and they found she had a HUGE vitamin D deficiency... and she's not the only one i know who has that problem. Since she's been on supplements she's a new person!!
It takes someone very special to accept a foster child into their home, especially a teenager! i'm sure its often a challenge! So best of luck and have a Wonderful Holidays!!

1 mom found this helpful

Practical suggestion: Try the alarm clock that jumps off the table and hops all over the room. The shift in where the sound energy is coming from as well as the fact that it grows incresingly annoying usually works for die-hard sleepers. I don't remember what it's called exactly but I've seen it here and there on informercials so you might find it in one of those stores that sells "As Seen on TV" items.

But you should really think about altering his sleep pattern altogether. Teens often want to stay up late and think they can handle it but it's always a crisis in the morning. Morever, it could really be psychological. It is a very real somatic symptom of depression or emotional crisis to not "be able" to wake up. Is he in therapy to support these changes in his life? Is he able to get up just fine on the weekends or other desired days but it's just the daily grind that seems so impossible? Is he possibly not sleeping restfully at night and he doesn't know how to discuss that with you? Or he may not even know that on a concious level. There are many psychological factors that affect sleep. If you want to just start with practicals and see how that goes, go right ahead. But if you see that it's not working or enough, I would really look into the psychological content.

And I do completely agree with you that your 1st interaction of the AM shouldn't be so stressful and negative. You could of course also try behavioral modifcations/rewards but he may be too old for that- although if he has ADD that might work. Is he on any medication? That could also be a factor. I'm a mental health therapist so forgive me if I'm being too psycho-analytical but I suppose I cannot help it. Best wishes.

I go upstairs at 6:30am. open the bedroom doors, turn the light on, give a kiss on the cheek and say; "Good morning!" Then leave the room with the door open. After that, the alarms go off and every five minutes or so, I go to the bottom of the stairs, speak through a blow horn I use, so I don't have to go back up the stairs, & say: "Good morning!" through it. I say this until I get a response. Then I announce what time it is. It works for us. There's no yelling involved. Good luck!

I see u have a lot of great ideas posted below. 2 medical reasons I can think of right away, that interfere with sleep. Thyroid problem, not so common in teen boys, but it is possible. A blood test for this, and the test has to check the thyroid levels. Or, possilby sleep apnea, which can be checked out by an Ear Nose and Throat doctor.
He's lucky to have a nice caring mom like you!

You've received many great responses! If those don't work out, and you are still having problems, you can do what I have done form ny 14 year old who has a stable home life, yet was sleeping for 14 hours on some days. We had him tested for food allergies, amino acids, and other chemicals required to function properly. We found that he was not making melatonin (required for proper sleep), seratonin, and dopamine, like most people do. therefore he had huge mood swings along with his sleep irregularities. He now takes digestive enzymes, so that he gets more of what he needs from his food, 3 amino acids that he was lacking, and B vitamins, so that he can produce the necessary neurotransmitters. He hasn't had the sleep problem since! If you need more info, try www.metametrix.com and look for a provider in your area. More information about the process we went through is there on the Triad test. Good Luck!!
K., mother of three, educational therapist

He might want that interaction in the morning. In my experience with other situations, it might be his way of getting reinforcement that you care about him. He might be testing you in some way, and not really have an issue waking up. I might take a look at his history and find out if and how he has been getting his needs met.

There is a vibrating alarm clock available through productso for the deaf. You put it under his pillow and it vibrates, waking him up. Works like a charm!

I dont have any experience with that. However, I am going to make some suggestions. No T.V. before bed, Can watch it but end the night more relaxed with a book, andventure or other but not voilence. or music. Also, make sure he is physically and mentally stimulated during the day, anything, laughing, exercise, painting, drawing whatever, only a little t.v. time.

None of this may be appropriate but I though I would try just in case it would help. Oh and maybe start the wakeup process an additional half hour with a second sounding alarm clock?

Good Luck and best wishes. What you are doing is wonderful!

Hi, I have the same problem with my 18 year old...it took a while to figure out two things....diet and lack of sleep. He is probably trying to catch up on sleep deprivation (they stay up texting, on the computer even after the official bedtime) and if they drink to much soda and eat too many sweets, their body crashes. Try limiting the sweet drinks and caffeine (sp?) before bed and try requesting a bedtime that is one hour earlier. He also might need more exercise (add more oxygen to the body)If he has a cell phone, use that tone has the alarm, kids will wake up for that phone every time! It's hard, I know I'm an early bird and get up by 5-5:30...he may have a very different internal clock....good luck.

Dear dear R., first of all let me thank you for being a foster family. I was a foster mom for years and children everywhere need more caring foster parents. I had several teenagers that "could not wake up" in the morning. I told them after 2 times waking them up that I had gotten them a brand new alarm clock. Then I showed them a pitcher of ice water and said it kicks in after the first knock on the door. Of course they said you wouldnt and I promised them I would. And I DID!! I only had to do that to 2 kids, the others miraculously jumped out of bed in the morning.
God bless you with your new son and if you ever have any questions or concerns or just want to chat email me.

Ah welcome to the joys of parenting teens. A wonderful counselor solved this problem for me. The punishment for missing the school bus must be HEINOUS!!! Also, it is your house and you can go into any room you want. If he misses the bus, he is your slave for the day. Make this completely clear before it happens. He can scrub, clean, haul garbage, whatever horrible awful chores you can dig up. (my counselor suggested things like scrubbing out toilets, garbage cans and the gook that accumulates between the window panes). You'll only actually have to make him do something terrible one time. Then, he'll miraculously hear the alarm on his own! Good luck

Try the sunrise clock- gradualy increases the light in the room and/or vibrating clock. The vibrating clock goes off under the pillow. Some folks need both. There are "sonic Boom" clocks that are very loud and can be put across the room so the kid has to get up to shut it off.

We suffer the same thing.. my son wont hear a bomb going off next to him... we got him an alarm clock thats 'extra loud' and told him if he misses his morning bus he has to walk to school... we are 2 mile away... but he has walked it many times. Eventually they learn to listen for the buzz. I used to frustrate myself calling out to them and wake them up but I never got anywhere... the idea of missing the bus and walking to school helped fix that problem quickly. Good Luck

Of course it's appropriate to go into his room. 1. it's your house, and 2. he's still a child. However there is a difference between going into his room unannounced and respecting his privacy. I would suggest knocking before entering, but again it is your house. And you have every right to go into his room. And since this is the only way to wake him you have no choice. As I use to be a deep sleeper myself, I can't tell you any way to help wake him. But there is a big difference between entering his room and respecting his privacy.

I just watched a show about teens and sleep and they need an average of 9.25 hours sleep. Is he having trouble falling asleep? My daughter had a big problem with this and it was due to her eating too late at night. Because she had digestive problems at the time, the food was basically fermenting in her gut and was turning into alcohol. This of course made her almost unconscious. Once we fixed the physical, the sleep got better too.

Ask him how he's used to waking up. He must have some ideas too.

Maybe he needs a super-loud alarm clock. I used to have one of those old fashioned ones with the bells on the outside and it managed to wake up my daughter. None of the other clocks did.

Is there a foster parent rule about not entering his room? I would think that being a responsible parent means having access to his room. Knocking should be mandatory for any teen though. After all, you need to make sure he gets to school.

If this problem persists after making sure he gets his 9 hours, he may benefit from a magnetic sleep system or at least a pillow. It helps the body get into a deeper more satisfying sleep.

That TV show about sleep & teens was on the internet. Somewhere I still have a link so if you want to watch I will see if I can find it for you.

There are wake up devices for the deaf that shake the bed. That would be one option.

Another would be to include in your Mom role, since this is new for him, a wake up, mmmm, nudge? Go into his room, put up the shades, turn on some music he likes (okay, Mozart can be pretty upbeat too!), and more ideas along that line.

You are Mom. As Mom, I believe you can help your children in many ways.

My Mom didn't turn me out of bed (neither did I have an alarm clock either) my DAD did. First was turning on the lights. Then putting up the shades. Then removing the bedsheets. Then physical (though gentle) removal from bed. :)

I don't think your son sleeps any different than any other 15 year old. You can turn him out of bed, but have a discussion about it in the afternoon (or on a Saturday would likely be best, so you can explore options if need be to get additional go gear).

He is a foster son, and I think he will remember your kindness in this area, and helping him learn to wake in the AM, as you said, less tense.

Oh, and an afterthought, do anything you do 40 minutes before you want him up. :)

Good Luck!

Thank you for being a foster parent. What a kind and generous thing to do. I know how difficult it is to wake up a deep sleeper. Teenagers especially, I remember reading an article that said that hormonal shifts during the teen years actually contributed to teens sleeping patterns. My brother still has trouble getting out of bed at 31 years old. I think some people are just wired that way. I just ordered an alarm clock for him for a Christmas gift that may help in your situation. It's called Clocky. If you don't shut it off within a certain amount of time the alarm becomes louder and then rolls off the nightstand. It continues to roll around the room until you shut it off. It may help. Good Luck.

I tend to think you have two choices....either let it go and let him face the consequences of not being able to get up on time in the mornings....or be supportive, go into his room to wake him...making it as pleasant as possible.

I myself suffer with this problem...
My Mom and her friend once told the story of when I was an infant. I was born 5 lbs 6 ounces and was a constant sleeper. Her friend would come to wake and feed me and my Mom would argue with her not to wake me....both saying they had bitter fights about it. I tend to think if her friend hadn't taken the time to wake and feed me I probably would not have lived.
I was an unwanted pregancy, unwanted child who had a difficult childhood which is why I think I tend to sleep in a coma state. I think to escaped and that's what my body got programed to do early on. Although my teenage years were easier and fun, I had suffered an on going low level of depression and the problem of getting up in the mornings continued...Mom never had a problem getting me to bed...sleeping seemed to be something I totally enjoyed.

My mother had a life time job of waking me. During the younger years and all through high school, she woke me up to get to school on time. I was the only one in the house who didn't hear the alarm clocks. As an adult in my own apartment she continued on waking me with phone calls every morning so I'd get to work on time. I couldn't have functioned without her help with this.
When she died, my friend Marilyn who understood the problem took over the job of calling to wake me in the mornings so I can get to work on time. Today if I would request it, she would still call, now long distance to make sure I'm up on time for an appointment.
Anyway, this went on until I retired. I moved to the country and have a very pleasant easy going life now. Not yet perfect but most of the time now I will hear 4 alarm clocks going off 5 minutes apart. Sometimes I even surprise myself when I get up before the alarm clocks go off...

I take it since he is a forter child, he has had his share of inner childhood issues and perhaps he too uses sleep to escape the pain he feels inside....therefore also sleeps in a coma state. Ask him to think about getting up early right before he falls aleep. If he repeats it several times to himself it might help to reprogram his sleep habits. When I remember to do this myself I noticed it does make a difference.
In any case, I do hope that one day soon he out grows it...

My first question is about sleep hygiene. A 15 year old needs a good 9-10 hours per night. Aside from the normal physical changes that are going on, he's also dealing with a ton of "foster" related issues.. so his body just might need more sleep.
How is the quality of his sleep? does he sleep all through the night, or does he wake up a lot?
Is his sleep environment allowing for the sleep that he needs? Is his room free from factors that could interrupt his sleep? (computer, TV, cell phone?)
You might check out this website for more information about getting a good nights sleep: http://stgeneve.com/sleep_tips/default.htm
then factor in his personal issues. If these dont help, talk to his doctor.

Does he have appropriate sleep habits? No TV, music, computer late at night, going to bed at a reasonable hour? If that's no the issue, you may want to consult an MD. I had a friend with narcolepsy that most manifested in an inability to wake up. She has a special alarm clock, maybe for the deaf? I can't quite remember.

I would check into his hearing. I am deaf in one ear and a sound sleeper, and if I am lying on my good ear I don't hear a thing. The business right next door to my house burned down one night, I got up to get ready for work and they were just boarding up the windows, it was gutted and I didn't hear a thing. The same thing with the alarm blaring, I don't hear it, it's kind of scary. What if my oun house was on fire? Would I even hear the smoke detector?

Thank you for being a foster parent for a teenager--as a former case worker I know how hard it is to find a good foster home for a teenager (even ones who are nice kids).

You have a lot of good ideas posted here already. Once you have gone through some of the basics (how many hours of sleep, basic physical,etc.) I also agree with the post that suggested foster kids are under extra emotional stress and need more sleep to deal with it. You might consider he is just a deep sleeper. I heard somewhere of a deep sleeper who was able to get up better if he was woken up and drank some OJ about 15 minutes before needing to get out of bed.

Thank you for being a foster parent.
I would suggest talking over strategies with him. Empathize with him about waking so early, but be firm that he absolutely needs to get up. Find out what he thinks will work and give those ideas a try.
When I was in high school and college, I had to put my alarm clock across the room so I had to literally get up to turn it off. That worked - most of the time =)
I like the wake up phone call idea.
Although this is extremely common for teens, think about how his lifestyle could be influencing his sleep patterns. Is he getting enough exercise? Is he eating well? Has he been in places where it was difficult for him to sleep, and so he has learned to shut the world out that way? Perhaps, he is just literally exhausted and so needs time to adjust to your home and re-energize.
It sounds like you are a very caring person who will do her best to provide for this young boy. Just stay firm in things that must happen (like getting up on time) so that you can be more mellow about things that are difficult for him to adjust to.
Best of luck to your whole family.

Hi R.,

You didn't mention if you know this boy very well, or what his background is. If you don't know his background can you get more information? How long has this been happening?

While I don't have any teens of my own, I am the youngest of 7 and saw a lot of mistakes my teenage brothers and sisters made, which has caused them many problems, (some still to this day).

Either way there are many questions that you can ask yourself and try to answer that may shed some light on this.

Is he going to bed at a decent hour & what is his bedtime? Is he eating ok? Could he be using drugs? When was the last time he saw a doctor?

Sleeping that heavy through an alarm clock sounds like someone who is either passed out on some sort of drug, or someone who is so exhausted from mental stress and trauma he's recovering energy in his body, perhaps from being sleep deprived before coming to stay with you?

Has he been through mental trauma rencently? I would ask yourself all these questions and then try to piece it together from there.

If it doesn't improve, I would take him to a doctor.

Best of luck to you, and let us know how he's doing.


Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.