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by Jill

Dear Annie,

I have a strange thing happening with my two year old. She wakes in the night screaming as if from a nightmare but nothing we do seems to calm her. She yells for ridiculous things like to go outside, or to watch a video or something, but doesn't seem to understand she can't or can't even relate to us. She doesn't even seem to recognize us and hits and flails around like she is possessed!

It is heartbreaking not to be able to comfort her, plus we are getting sleep deprived. In the morning, she doesn't really seem to remember but just thinks she has been naughty. What can we do?

Comments for Nightmares?

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Night Terrors Part One
by: Annie Desantis, Parent Coach

Hi Jill,

It sounds like your little girl is experiencing night terrors. Night terrors are different from nightmares, in that the child may appear awake, but is not rational, may scream or be frightened but not be consolable. They usually don't recognize Mom or Dad, and demand unreasonable things - which she is doing.

Unlike a bad dream, they don't usually don't remember much the next day, except they pick up on your tiredness and frustration and think they are in trouble.

Scientifically, there is a lot of confusion about what causes night terrors. Some studies have shown many small children are over tired - particularly if they are being dropped off at day care and get home late. It is harder to have individual sleep routines in a care facility.

Also major events in the family may trigger them, such as divorce, death, moving, a new sibling etc.

There are all sorts of things happening when we sleep, our unconscious mind is processing the day, and trying to make sense of everything so our brain is still actively processing information. Children are also far more connected on an energetic level, and the division between physical and non-physical is more blurred.

Some studies on out of body experiences are suggesting night terrors could be a result of confusion during these "nocturnal" activities, which would account for why they don't seem to be properly awake or recognizing Mom and Dad.

Whatever the reason, how do you manage it? It is exhausting for parents, particularly if your child has these episodes nightly.

Read Part Two of Night Terrors below:

Night Terrors Part Two
by: Annie Desantis, Parent Coach

Hi Jill,

Part Two of Night Terrors: Dealing with it all!

Make sure she is getting plenty of sleep, try an extra nap in the daytime.

Have a think about whether any major event has happened in the family, and if so, try to give her some extra one on one attention so she feels more secure.

There is no point in being cross, or trying any disciplinary tactics, it will just make her more confused and distressed during the day.

Don't try to wake her (I know of parents who have tried a cold shower!) - it is too much of
a shock for her. Just be patient and try to reassure her until it is over even if she doesn't recognize you.

You can try singing quiet bedtime songs, or just saying the same loving things over and over until she finally calms down.

I know it is really hard to remain calm and relaxed yourself when she is so distressed, but if you can stay centered and calm and just keep her safe, then that is often all you can do.

If your daughter seems to have an episode at the same time each night, you can try an interrupting trial. About 15 mins before she would normally start, wake her and keep her awake for a few minutes, maybe take her to the toilet if she is toilet trained, or just sing a quiet little song. This can be enough to break the pattern. Try it for a week, then stop and see if it makes any

You can also start to teach her to start grounding herself. She is pretty young yet to get the hang of any formal meditations, but just play at being a tree with her, and imagine the roots growing down down down into the earth. You can
wave your hands above like branches etc. If you practice that with her on a regular basis, then in the night, you can just run through the story of feeling connected, your (her) roots going down into the earth, feeling strong and solid etc. She may start to tune into something familiar like that at night.

You can base something around their favorite cartoon character. I know of one child who screamed for Dora to come, so during the day I got her Mom to make up a little story about Dora coming and helping do things, and then the imaginary Dora got tucked inside her daughter's Pajama pocket each night with a little pat. Then Amy woke screaming, Mom or Dad would pat the pocket and say soothing things like Dora with you, Dora's helping you. It didn't always
work, but sometimes it was instant, in that Amy would gulp and pat her pocket herself and suddenly lie down.

It may not be much consolation at the moment, but she will eventually grow out of it. Most children it only lasts a few months, but some it can last until aged 8!

Hopefully not!

Parenting can be exhausting and sometimes there is not an easy solution. See if you can find ways to have a nap yourself, or take turns having a sleep in the spare room with earplugs! Just try to keep the focus on helping her to feel good about herself and trust, that like every stage, she will come through it.

Sweet dreams!
Annie D

Three year old night terrors
by: Karen

It was so helpful to read the question and answer with night terrors. We have a 3 year old doing the same thing and we are exhausted. We even took her to the doctor and he suggested medication for her! He said nothing about night terrors and we were horrified to be told to medicate her.

So it was such a relief to read about it here. It is early days yet, but the thing that we have changed to most is how we deal with it. I realized we have made this such a big family issue, we talk about, argue about it, spend a lot of time pressuring Kylee about it, and I think we might have made it worse. So now, we don't mention it in front of her, and even together we try to only talk about it when we are deciding whose turn it will be to get up to her. We are also trying to only talk to her about bed being lovely and cuddly, and how good she is going to bed etc, instead of trying to get her to agree not to wake up!

We tried the tree exercise and she loves it. She even told me I needed to be a tree when I was crabby one day! We have tried waking her for two nights so far and it did stop the first episode one night (she often wakes 3 times in the night) but we were too tired to do it three times a night. We are going to try just the first waking for a week and then if that works try the second one. Fingers crossed! I'll let you know.

good luck to the lady with the 2year old,

Night Terrors
by: Teresa

My daughter had been plagued with night terrors unfortunately for a couple of years. To see your child wide eyed and frightened and crying for what appears as no good reason is hard on everyone concerned. You see it was only her and I I would bring her into my bed and sometimes that worked. Sometimes I would let the dog stay in her bed, (poodle no shedding)and that too would sometimes would work.

We happen to be native american indians and one of the things we (her and I)would be to sage the house. Christians use holy water. We use sage. I started telling her that if there was anyone there and they were not of the light to tell them that Creator lived here and they were not welcomed.

I can't tell you what stopped it all maybe a combination of all. My prayers go out to all the parents who are living through this, and know that they will get through this whole.

American Indian tools to help empower child
by: Annie Desantis

Thanks for your comment Teresa,

I used to use Sage a lot for cleansing/clearing a room, and what a wonderful idea to do that with your little girl.

Any little ritual you can set up with children, helps them to be empowered to deal with overwhelming situations - whether night terrors or just frustrating or angry times during the day.

I believe our inner wisdom/higher self resonates to rituals because they represent something human kind has done for thousands of years as a way of tapping into that which is greater than ourselves.

Finding the kinds of rituals that fit for your family is a wonderful way to help children to tap into their own guidance.

Your little girl is very blessed to have you as her Mom (and I am sure you feel the same way about her!)

Wishing you JOY,
Annie D

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