Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Our boys' night terrors

Our two older boys have always suffered from night terrors. Both started around the age of five or six years old, and I would say both of them have started to grow out of it over the past couple of years.

In the beginning it was very frightful of course, and we didn’t know what to make of it. We did some research and understood theoretically what it was and that it wasn’t anything directly harmful to our children or a sign of a bigger problem, but still it is so forceful and scary that it’s difficult not to react to it.

Also, although there is some research and theories, we soon realized that there’s more to our children’s night terror than the literature holds, and/or these theories are incomplete and the entire problem requires further research. This means that we’ve had to discover a lot of things on our own, figuring them out as we go. Scientists say for example that a child that is sleep-walking or having night terrors should not be communicative, however, we have sat down with our boys during a night terror, got them to calm down and answer questions (correctly, such as history questions or math problems, or “What’s my name? What day is it?” etc.), eyes wide open - they’re still completely asleep, and remember nothing the next day. Also, the boys will do logical things, like try to open the front door (which we know to lock carefully) and when they can’t, knock, all the while obviously playing out some kind of scary dream; talking, screaming, gesticulating. That’s another thing; researchers claim that children cannot experience a nightmare AND night terror at the same time, and say that children in a night terror state are not dreaming. Obviously though, ours do.
All this is freaky, however not disturbing – what bothers me is when I can’t calm them down as they scream in terror about someone pushing them down the slide, taking their Ninjagos, or some kind of creature chasing them.

Now, after years, however, we’ve got used to it and having tried preventing it in all the recommended ways without much luck (solid bedtime routine, calm sleeping environment, etc.) we know it’s something that just happens. So, when Abraham, almost four years old, had a few nights of terror recently, we knew to handle it with ease. Try to calm him down, get him back in bed, and wait it out.

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