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Night terrors! I hate them! Seeing your child being tormented in the middle of the night is the worst feeling other than seeing them sick. Caleb experienced them off and on for about a week. As of the writing of this blog, it’s been about two weeks and we have been praying we’ve seen the last of it.
Kids experience nightmares all of the time. The dream may contain situations of discomfort, psychological or physical terror or panic. The night terrors Caleb was having were horrible. He would be still asleep but would scream out and was inconsolable. At first, we didn’t know whether or not to wake him up so we just prayed and held him close so until he would calm down. The experienced lasted only for about 5 minutes but felt like it was much longer.
Caleb has an active imagination so we wanted to make sure we created an environment where he felt safe. This mean that we watch what is on the TV and we try not to watch a lot of dramas in the evenings around him. My husband loves Walking Dead. I asked him to make sure Caleb is not around when that is on. I’ve almost shut down most of my television time watching mostly shows Caleb watches and waiting until he goes to sleep to watch the news. I’ve found I sleep better when I’ve not watched any television.
We’ve also decided to adopt some additional habits to help Caleb sleep better at night. They include:
1. A warm bath: Each night at 7:30p, I am running Caleb’s bath water. Having your child take a bath before sleeping will help their body to unwind. The warm water also makes your child’s temperature rise artificially. The contrast between the bath time temperature and the temperature of the room can help induce sleep. With consistency of this activity, Caleb now knows that we are preparing for bed once we take a bath.
2. Create a cozy sleeping atmosphere: Make sure your child has enough blankets and pillows to feel warm, protected, and comfortable. Close the windows and curtains if possible. Caleb has Mickey, Donald and Goofy stuffed toys that he carries everywhere even to bed.
3. Help your child connect with a security object: Whether a blanket or a stuffed animal, having an object that makes your child feel safe is important. As I just mentioned, Caleb prefers his Disney friends.
4. Read happy stories: Before your child goes to sleep, read a few children’s books. This will help them become calm. Focus on creating a mood of happiness prior to sleep but not too much excitement. My husband makes this mistake all the time. He and Caleb love rough and tumble time. They wrestle, run around the house, and play hide and seek, often before bedtime. As a result, Caleb is so excited, the last thing he wants to do is go to bed.
5. Say prayers: Bedtime prayers are always the best way to end the day before sleeping. This is a good way to start helping your child develop his or her faith. I also believe it is a good way to find out if something is troubling your child so you can talk it over with them and pray with them.
6. Put on a night light: I slept with a nightlight for most of my childhood. Even now, I like a small light in the room. If I wake up at night, I never want it to be completely dark. One thing that Caleb and Nate imagine they are doing is laying on the floor and looking up at the stars. So the night light that shows the stars on the ceiling is a big hit. The circling on the ceiling will also help your child relax and go to sleep.
7. Have a regular bedtime and wake-up time for your child: This is very hard for us right now as Caleb is in a stage where we doesn’t want to go to bed. It is literally a two hour process – from bath time to completely asleep. However, having a sleep routine does help slow him down, and feel safe and secure as he eventually drifts off to sleep.
8. Soothe your child: Caleb loves to cuddle. He is in the stage now where he is a daddy’s boy but at night, he’s all about mommy and he wants me to hold him close. So when he does experience these night terrors, I hold him close, walk around the room and let me know that mommy is here and he is safe with me. He typically grabs me back tight and goes back to sleep.
Although kids having nightmares are totally normal, I believe we can help our children not be tormented by them. In our home, we believe in the power of prayer so when we started praying against these nightmares, Caleb stopped having them. The best thing any parent can do is to take all these necessary steps to ensure that our children get over nightmares and have peaceful sleep.