This Childhood Experience Can Be Scary For Parent and Child – What You Need To Know

As parents, we do everything we can to make sure that our kids are healthy and safe; that they are given stimulation, stability, and education.  While we can control many of these factors, there are some aspects of parenting that are somewhat out of our control.

When our children are sick or scared, we do everything in our power to help them feel better.  It can be hard to be a kid sometimes – and hard to watch our children go through things that we don’t know how to fix.

One such childhood experience is a phenomenon that can be frightening for our children – and perhaps even more frightening for moms and dads – but if we arm ourselves with a bit of information, our fears may be “put to rest.”

Having nightmares is a normal part of life for both adults and children. Sometimes they can be triggered by upsetting events, a scary movie, or for no apparent reason at all.

While it is hard to see our children have a nightmare, we often know exactly how to settle them down and allay their fears.  However, there is another nighttime sleep issue that can be more confusing and upsetting for both parent and child – night terrors.

So what is the difference between a nightmare and a night terror, and what should parents be on the lookout for?  And, more importantly, what can we do to help our little ones feel better?

Romper.com reported:Professional Sleep Consultant Christine Stevens tells Romper that when you know what you’re looking for, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between night terrors and nightmares.

Neither nightmares nor night terrors are actual health concerns, but they are understandably distressing experiences for parents who feel responsible for their children’s peace of mind. Sometimes seizure-like episodes accompany night terrors, which might tempt you to make a trip to the emergency room, but they are actually not harmful.

“Night terrors can be scary to watch, but if you try to talk to your child, their reply might be just babbling or incoherent talk because they aren’t really awake. During night terrors, children will tend to scream out and the event can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.” When a child has a nightmare on the other hand, Stevens says he or she will be able to converse with you and tend to recall some or most of the details of the dream.

One of the most noticeable differences between nightmares and night terrors are that true night terrors may manifest themselves in physical symptoms experienced by your child.

They can be longer lasting and difficult to come out of — as opposed to a nightmare, from which a child will typically awaken more rapidly and be more responsive to a parent’s calming techniques.

Night Terrors Resource Center reported on some of these physical symptoms. Characteristic behaviors of a child undergoing night terrors are that he or she could:

  • Yell or scream after being deep asleep
  • Bolt upright in bed
  • Move around in bed, often uncontrollably or violently as if having a seizure
  • Appear agitated, with a rapid pulse
  • Be very difficult to wake up
  • Be impossible to calm or console during the night terror
  • Be confused if awoken
  • Get out of bed completely as if sleepwalking, possibly getting hurt

With night terrors, children are not actually dreaming and will rarely remember what was going on during the night terror. Children who have night terrors are more likely to sleep walk and have bedwetting. If your child has these issues, then what look like seizures or panic attacks during sleep may more likely be night terrors.

While these symptoms may seem terrifying in themselves – and probably more for the parent than the child – they do not appear to create any health risk.

Night terrors may be part of a sleep disorder called parasomnia, which can involve abnormal or erratic movements, strange behaviors, and a range of emotions.  Night terrors are most common between the ages of 4 to 12, though they can appear at any age.  Researchers have found they occur more frequently in boys, and that there may be a genetic connection.

Studies have shown that they can be related to heightened stress or extreme fatigue, perhaps secondary to some kind of drastic change in routine or emotional stress caused by divorce or the illness or death of a family member.

It is estimated that half a million children annually will develop night terrors, and they can even occur in infants.  They can be chronic, happening nightly, or infrequent, and usually occur in the first few hours of deep sleep.

Romper.com continued with advice from Christine Stevens in dealing with nightmares and night terrors:

Nightmares require more talking with the kid. “If your child has had a nightmare,” Stevens says, “It’s best to be supportive and reassure them that bad dreams are normal; it’s simply the way their brains process information. Try to help them think of something more positive as they go back to sleep.”

If your child is experiencing night terrors, you should discuss it with your pediatrician, who may recommend seeing a therapist or sleep consultant.  While these terrors are not physically dangerous, it is wise to rule out any emotional trauma or other causes that you may not be aware of.

In either case, nightmares and night terrors just require some extra love and care from mom and dad.  In fact, it may be more traumatic for the parent than the child.  If you remain calm and supportive, and assure your child that they are safe, they should be able to get back to a peaceful slumber with little problem.

Has your child ever experienced night terrors?  What techniques did you use to keep yourself and your child calm?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

 

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