My 2 Year Old Has Suddenly Started Crying At Bedtime How to Help Your Child Through Night Terrors

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How to Help Your Child Through Night Terrors

Children’s night terrors are common in children. As your child grows, starting at age 3, his imagination starts to become more active. Along with an active imagination comes fear. Distinguishing between imagination and reality can be difficult for a child. As a society, through movies and TV shows we train children to be afraid of the dark. It’s out of the darkness, “that the evil scared monsters will show.” So it is not surprising that children, alone in their bed at night, start to imagine and see monsters and ghosts everywhere. Dr. Richard Sherman, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, says, “The fear of monsters is real. This is a very common problem among children between the ages of 3 and 6.”

Night terrors can also be very exhausting for parents. It leads to long nights if your child wakes up begging to come into your room. It’s easy to give in when you’re tired and allow your child to climb into your bed with you. However, try not to make it a habit or you will never get over your fear.

Here are some tips that can work with your child to help them develop healthy sleep habits and be a safer child at night.

1. The most important thing is to be supportive and caring. I know how hard it can be to wake up at 2 in the morning, tired and worried about your child who just had a nightmare. It’s easy to get upset, but remember that this is a legitimate fear for your child, so be understanding. Don’t yell at him for being afraid, help him overcome his fear.

2. Hours before bed, make sure your child is surrounded by positive messages. Try to avoid TV 2 hours before going to bed, even Transformers or Harry Potter can help to move the imagination. An innocent children’s show called Little Bear had a Halloween episode where Little Bear saw a goblin. This may seem innocent enough to you, but not your child.

3. Try to develop a calming routine before bed. Give your child a bath or read a good children’s story that will fill them with happy images.

4. Have a night light on to help during the night. You can even find night lights shaped like your child’s favorite Disney character.

5. Leave the door open and if your room is close to your child’s, let him hear your voice so he understands that even if he can’t see you, you’re not far away.

6. Play soft music in your bedroom or have some story tapes handy. Let him concentrate on the story, or the music and not on his imagination.

7. It is okay for the child to sleep with you from time to time until this stage is over. The important thing is that you are okay with it. If it disturbs your sleep to the point where you are restless and irritable the next day, try another method.

8. Make sure you talk to your child about their fears. It does not detract from their importance. They are real to her. If your child tells you there’s a monster in the closet, don’t pretend you’re getting rid of it. She will think you also believe in monsters and believe they really exist.

9. Have your child practice visualization techniques. Help her train her mind to think of something positive or funny when her night terrors begin.

10. Try repeating “you’re safe” several times when your child cries.

11. It’s also okay to occasionally stay by his bed until he falls asleep. But don’t repeat it too often or your child will depend on you being next to her to sleep.

12. As an alternative to #11, check in on your child frequently, staggering check-in times each time. For example, the first check-in will be in 5 min., the second in 10, the third in 15 min. etc… until your child falls asleep. Depending on your child’s fear level, the next night, you can start the first check-in in 10 minutes.

If your child’s fears have crossed the line, becoming inconsolable, it may be anxiety or a phobia. Or a sign of an underlying emotional problem due to a stressful event or sudden change in your child’s life. If in doubt, always consult your child’s doctor.

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