Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monsters under the Bed

This is what pure joy looks like :) 

I am 100% obsessed with my nephew. I know I am slightly biased, but I am pretty sure the world revolves around him. The other day my sister posted this facebook status, 

"I think Aiden has officially started having little nightmares  He's woken up crying from his naps a few times and is pretty inconsolable for a few minutes, but this morning he woke up at 2:30am crying and calling for me. Through his tears he said "I scared" and "I want to sleep in Mommy's bed." It broke my mommy heart"

It broke my auntie heart, so I wanted to research it more. I had no idea that kids at young as two years old could experience nightmares. Our wonderful child developmental specialist broke down nightmares into three  different categories.

Night terrors:
The child is not aware and cannot be woken up
The child won't be aware or remember it
Time is limited, and the child will come out of it on their own
What to do: Make sure your child is safe and stay nearby until the night terror is over

Child is sort of awake
Child is distressed
Its like a bout of mini-PTSD from the day
What to do: If you are aware of a stressful situation during the day, give your child a way to externalize their distress. Have some extra play time and make sure to end the day on a happy, calming note. 

Neural Discharge:
Child is on the verge of a developmental leap. Fears will crop up at periods of new and rapid development. Your child might be exhausted but their brain is on overdrive because they are learning something new- for example how to stand, walk or talk. Their brain will be firing all sorts of signals which can keep a child awake, or cause them to wake up in the middle of the night.   
What to do: Two hours before bedtime, practice the milestone as much as the child wants (like standing up and down 100x), and then one hour before bedtime, have slowdown time to help their minds slow down and get to sleep. 

Nightmares can also occur during transition periods like moving houses, getting a new sibling, or starting school. You can help ease these types of nightmares by talking about the transition in positive ways and easing the child into the situation. 

Here are 7 tips to help a child learn to cope with fears and nightmares found from this website:
  • Comfort your child and take their fears seriously, but don't add your own anxiety to hers.
  • Look under the bed, in the closet. Let your child understand that this is for her comfort, not because you recognize danger.
  • Firm limits on bedtime are reassuring.
  • A comforting loving hug always helps.
  • Help your child learn ways of comforting herself when she wakes in fear. She can distract herself by singing songs, making up stories, or thinking pleasant thoughts.
  • Throughout the day, model your own way of handling your aggression.
  • Read fairy tales together because they encourage young children to face their own fears and angry feelings.
If you have had any experiences or advice on dealing with nightmares in young children, let us know below! 

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