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What is the best way to respond to your child when they are having a night terror?

My son is a little over two years old and in the past few months he has woken up kicking and screaming. He can't yet verbalize what is wrong with him but last night he did say "scared." When I pick him up to comfort him he continues to thrash around and scream as if he's having a tantrum. I'm not sure how to respond to this in the middle of the night. Should I pick him up, wait it out, turn on the lights, etc.? What do you do and how can I help to prevent them from happening?


Asked by jacobsmom707 at 6:13 PM on Oct. 12, 2009 in Toddlers (1-2)

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Answers (11)
  • "sshhh it's ok mommy is right here"...let him thrash it out as you're saying this, and when he calms down just have him lay on his pillow and cover him. then rub his back for a little bit, he should lay there for a while, he may fall asleep right away, he may not. if you have to, just sit next to him on the floor till he does. GL

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:19 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • He is still thrashing because he is still in the terror...he doesn't know that it's you...all he knows is that the terror has grabbed him....

    Just sit with him and make sure that he doesn't hurt himself and when he comes out of it, soothe him and reassure him that he is ok and nothing will hurt him.

    Answer by Jademom07 at 6:17 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • If he won't let you hold him then just sit by him and keep telling him that "Mommy is right here" and that it was just a dream.

    My DD is 2 and has nightmares sometimes - it's not fun, but it only takes about 4 or 5 minutes of soothing her until she's content enough to fall back to sleep.

    Answer by ladysavage at 6:20 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • ladysavage...a nightmare is different than a night terror.

    Answer by Jademom07 at 6:27 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • I would also work on prevention. Keep a log of what he's eating, seeing on TV, seeing at play group, etc. There could be a food or a toy or an image in a book that is disturbing him.

    Answer by ecodani at 6:28 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • there is no difference in night terrors and nightmares.

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:33 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • there is no difference in night terrors and nightmares.

     see this, there IS a difference


    Answer by Jademom07 at 6:47 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • um, no, there is no difference. i read the article you posted and all i see is that the night terror they're speaking of could be a worse nightmare than another. some kids just don't wake up right away, they start crying and could be "running" or something (which is the kicking motion). haven't you ever had a nightmare you can't wake up from? like i said, there's no difference. some nightmares are just scarier than others.


    Answer by Anonymous at 8:04 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • I think he is having night terrors!I think there is a difference between nightmares and night terrors if tehre wasnt than why the different names and so niece has them where she crys,sobs,and violently moves around!we dont wake her for the most until she starts calling for her mommy or the rest of the family even than her eyes r closed shut!I have read that u should wake a toddler thats having a night terror or whatever it might be bc they may hit u by accident and scare them more!I read it happends alot in 2-4 years olds!my daughter hasnt had one yet that I know of but my niece has and the Dr. told my sister they r normal and if they r not hurting themselves or anyone else than there isnt much u can do except dont let them see too much mature stuff!hope that helps!

    Answer by mybabygirl2007 at 9:25 PM on Oct. 12, 2009

  • DD's had these a few times, the 1st 2 times I picked her up and tried to comfort her, then I read that you are just supposed to wait it out, don't talk to them, don't pick them up, don't try to wake them up by turning on lights or anything. This really helps with her, they haven't lasted as long or been as bad since we tried this. Just make sure he doesn't hurt himself or anything.

    And there IS a HUGE difference between night terrors and nightmares. The first time DD had a night terror we didn't know what was going on, we thought she was in REALLY bad pain for some reason and I wanted to take her to the hospital, we didn't realize that she wasn't ACTUALLY awake. It lasted nearly 30 minutes and was really scary for me and DH too.

    One of the things that can bring them on is lack of sleep, the few times she's had them were days when she didn't nap well at all. So really try to make sure he's getting enough sleep.

    Answer by Blueliner at 6:05 PM on Oct. 13, 2009