Terrorizing, horrific, pulse-pounding panic are the first feelings you experience in your child’s Night Terrors. They are probably one of the more traumatizing things that happen to a parent. It’s insulting for a parent to feel as though they have been casting out demons for the past several nights when their child gleefully eats their meal as though nothing has happened. Awkward.
Night Terrors typically happen in a child’s life between the ages of six months and six years old. We are in a stage of sleep where our mind can be hyperactive while physically asleep and our body stays completely disconnected. The two short circuit crash into each other exploding into a virtual waking dream. If you have ever had to nudge your bedmate for talking about something in their sleep, it’s the same thing. Adults waking up in a cold sweat to a child screaming should appreciate a spouse doing the same thing when you are the perpetrator. Our little secret.
Your child is upright and screaming, you’re comforting them and they don’t know who you are. Grabbing and hugging them only make things worse. Eyes wide open, banshee screaming, fully braced: totally asleep. The thing lurking in the shadow, waiting to pluck them away might have suddenly grabbed them. Your embrace was their capture. That’s pretty freaking scary for a little kid. Grabbing the child in a panic may not be the best idea. Stay cool. It might be a long night.
Bad dreams suck. What do we know? Terrors tend to run in spurts. Triggers are things that change their sleeping patterns, vacations, guests, holidays, or any sort of pattern change. Try to mess with bedtimes. Knowing they will get cranky keep your baby up late. If they are worn out perhaps their imaginations will also be worn out. Watch Jimmy Fallon together until one of you falls soundly asleep. Someday it might be the only show you watch with your teen. They might accidentally talk to you.
Stay calm. Your impersonation of Father Merrin will not be in demand forever. It is not linked with a medical problem or psych problems. No parent has ever died from their child’s night terrors.
You will get through this.
Check out our article on 10 ways to help your child with night terrors