How Best to Deal With Night Terrors in Toddlers

Dealing with night terrors in toddlers is more than about just coping with average nightmares. Check out our parenting tips to see how to deal.

How do you deal with night terrors in toddlers?  This is more than a nightmare, although it might feel like you, as a parent, are experiencing one.  Your child wakes up in the middle of night, seeming to have had a nightmare, but you can’t seem to console her. She may scream or thrash violently. She may just stare into space with a terrified expression on her face.  This is no nightmare.  Your child is having night terrors.  What can you do to help make them stop or minimize the frequency?  Keep reading, hopefully we have got some helpful solutions.

Related: Getting your child to sleep in their own bed: A sweet dream or a nightmare?

Dealing with Night Terrors in Toddlers

What are night terrors?

Scary, that’s what they are!  Night terrors are scary to watch your child experience.  With a nightmare, your child wakes up and although scared, they are alert and you are able to comfort them.  Not with night terrors.  Your child may look awake, wide eyed and all, but she is still very much asleep and unable to be comforted by you.  It may appear that she can see you, but she does not sense your presence.  So scary to just think about as a parent, that you can’t comfort your child in a very frightening time like this.  The good news (I guess) is that your child won’t remember this in the morning.  You will, but she will not.

What causes them?

Lack of sleep.  Kids benefit from a schedule, more than you might think.  An erratic sleep schedule could trigger night terrors.  There are other things as well, such as major changes like a new baby or a change in schools or daycare.  Kids can feel stress and anxiety as well and it might manifest itself in the form of night terrors.

How do I deal with them?

I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but there is not a whole lot you can do about night terrors in toddlers.  Simply be there and be sure she isn’t going to hurt herself (remember, she is not awake).  This can last anywhere from one to thirty minutes, there really is no telling.  You can use your normal soothing techniques to help her go back to sleep, or to calm down (because she is still sleeping, she is not awake and aware).  Do not try to wake her though, it very well could just make it worse, because she would become more disoriented.  Holding her, as much as you want to, could make it worse.  I hate to even say that!  If my child were experiencing a night terror, the very first thing I would want to do is hold her!

Can I prevent them?

There is a reason these scary episodes are occurring and you can try to get to the bottom of it by talking with your child about things that might be bothering her.  Do not try to discuss the night terrors, your child will just look at your like you have 6 heads.  Try to pay attention to when they happen.  If your child has night terrors more than twice a week, you might want to see the pediatrician and keep a journal of when they happen. Something that might work to prevent night terrors in toddlers is to wake your child about 15 minutes before the expected episode.

Watching your child go through something so horrifying and not being able to console them just might be the worst feeling ever.  Parenting is tough and doesn’t come with a manual (it should though!)  Not every child experiences night terrors, so sometimes family and friends don’t have the right advice or suggestions because they haven’t had to deal with them with their own children.  That is why is so great to be able to reach out to other moms who have!

We would love to hear your stories about your experiences with night terrors in toddlers and what you did to help your child cope.  Share with us in the comment section below!

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