(originally written February 2014)
I considered not sharing this because it’s one of those things that I have zero control over. That’s really hard as a mom. But I figure that if I share this and it helps encourage one of you, it’s worth it. Here we go…
Will has nightmares.
As an infant, he suffered through night terrors…which is a very different thing. The night terrors started when he was about ten months old. They were literally the scariest thing ever as a new parent. I watched his little body thrash, screaming and crying, and knowing that there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it, reduce it or prevent it. It was horrifying. I wanted to take it away. I wanted to have it on me. I wanted to do ANYTHING. As soon as he would wake up, he was fine. He acted like he had no recollection of the terror. He would immediately stop crying. He would be alert and happy and not startle more easily or anything that would indicate that he had ever experienced a scare.
At first I did not understand. Then one day I had just pulled into a parking lot and he was asleep in his car seat and I heard the first scream. I immediately went to the back to check on him and watched the entire thing. He didn’t respond to me trying to wake him…eyes open…but not aware that I was even in front of him. He just had this blood-curdling scream and was thrashing his head back and forth. I immediately thought that an insect was stinging him or that he was having physical pain…maybe the buckle was pinching him or his diaper was hurting him?! I pulled him out and held him the remainder of the terror…both of us crying…both in terrible fear. It was one of those experiences that I will never forget.
After he had this ‘experience’ that I could confirm was a night terror, I talked to the doctor about them. She asked if he had caffeine or a stressful event in his life or poor sleeping patterns…no. no. no. She asked if I had given him any medication or had a fever. no and no. She then introduced us to the concept of night terrors (gave us a print out describing it vs. nightmares) and told us that it was not unheard of for children his age to have these night terrors and that we should just make sure that he doesn’t physically harm himself while he has them and to wait to outgrow them.
Well…he did. They slowly started to disappear and his sleep patterns were changing.
Now we have a different issue…the nightmares. The nightmares are completely different. I don’t remember exactly when they started but I can definitely tell the difference. The nightmares he can be stimulated out of. He can recall the subject of them, he talks during them (yes, he sleep-talks…just like his mama), he even cries but it’s more of a whimper and then sometimes there is a bloody-murder scream during the end. He even has started to explain the reoccurring ones.
At first the nightmares were never explained. I would ask simple questions like “What did you see when you were asleep?” and he couldn’t tell me. Then one day he told me that there were foxes. OH the foxes. The funny thing is…we don’t really know where he got this ‘fox’ character. And we filtered it through our adult brains…thinking of a real fox or even the cartoon one from the nursery rhyme book. Then one day Will saw a squirrel outside and called it a fox. He also started calling small dogs ‘foxes’. It was very confusing but as far as we know…he doesn’t feel comfortable with small furry animals and they all get labeled their proper names and also the name of ‘fox’.
Then recently Will has started explaining some much more startling dreams. These are the ones that give me chill bumps and keep me up at night praying for him to have peace. Will has told us on numerous accounts that there are two different things he sees in his room…the Crunchy Guy and the Sticky Things. As much as I don’t like talking about it with him, I have gotten some great advice from our pediatrician on how discussing these reoccurring ‘monsters’ can be beneficial to him processing the dreams.
The Sticky Things are harder for Will to explain…they stick to his walls and they also stick to each other. They are always located on his walls and doors and ceiling…they never touch him or hurt him but they are very scary. They do not have faces. They do not have a color. They have no arms or legs or hands or feet. They can be big or little.
The Crunchy Guy is the scariest of the scaries. He says that the Crunchy Guy has sharp hands that crunch the walls (I’m assuming that they are claws) and that he is big…much bigger than the Sticky Things. He is a male. He also does not have a color (not even black or gray or white). He is not a giant (according to Will, “giants live outside”). He also does not touch Will or his clothing and he does not talk or make noises other than crunches. But oh is he terrifying.
Will can describe these two monsters in great details even days after his last nightmare. He never sees them in any other room but his own and can see them multiple times a night (he might wake up scared…I soothe him back to sleep and then he sees them again). Verbally, Will is not the kind of kid that has a wild and vivid imagination…he might have one in his head but in general, he is a rule-follower and a ‘things-should-be-done-a-certain-way’ kinda person. If you ask him what the moon is made of…he doesn’t say cheese or water…if he doesn’t know, he says “I don’t know.”
After these discussions about these ‘interactions’ with Will, we breached the topic again with his doctor. Being a normal shy three year old, he would not discuss it with his pediatrician at all…no answering questions…no eye contact…nada. He just shut down completely and wouldn’t talk about it. The pediatrician asked us about frequency and we told her that it was about 4-5 times per week. She seemed really surprised by that and said that most kids with normal childhood anxiety can have 1-2 per week. After a long conversation, she wrote us a prescription for some meds if we chose to use them and recommended a future appointment with a children’s psychiatrist – but told us to wait until he was a little more verbal with other adults because that would be most helpful. One of the reasons we decided to enroll him in preschool this year was to help him understand that there are other grown-ups that he can talk to and feel comfortable with. So far it seems to help in that department (he was completely stoic before when you asked him to say thank you to a stranger…but now he actually will say it outloud!). Whether it has to do with his age or development or just because he is exposed to more adults, I’ll never know…but it’s nice that he is coming out of that shy shell a little. We chose to never have the prescription filled. It’s not that we are anti-drug….we just felt that with little ones, it is usually best to try other options first.
In general, Will has always been a relatively cautious kid. He has understood that injuries hurt and he tends to not take a ton of unnecessary risks physically. That’s not to say he’s not 100% boy. He will still throw himself out of a moving Powerwheel just for fun 🙂 Personally I believe that the caution is an outgrowth of the emotional sensitivity that he has….he has always understood when someone is hurting or stressed…and he is drawn to that…like if I stub my toe, he watches me process the pain from start to finish and will try to comfort me. He understands. I personally do not believe that he has abnormal anxiety for his age…although I do want a professional to confirm this in the future and I could be completely wrong…but there are no other indicators that anxiety is part of his life. He has a regular routine, he’s very social with other children, he’s almost never on medication (even when he gets sick, I hesitate because he is allergic to penicillin and the other meds make his tummy a little upset), he is happy and silly and comfortable during waking hours. He doesn’t get headaches or stomach aches or muscle tension. He has heard Jer and I argue maybe twice? And he isn’t allowed to watch hardly anything on TV (Mickey Mouse? Curious George?). Overall, he doesn’t meet the description. In fact, his little life might be a little too boring.
UPDATE : Current Day!
I’m happy to say that a year and a half after drafting that original post above, Will no longer has the nightmares on a regular basis. We do still have an occasional nightmare (1 per month) but they aren’t reoccurring ones and usually it is related to a new experience or something intense. If he experiences a social situation at school that he is still processing then he usually has a nightmare.
Some of you may be wondering why this post took so long to actually be made public. Well…I personally didn’t feel like this situation was in a positive place yet and call me a fairy tale fan but I like happy endings. Now it is. It’s very happy 🙂 Also…I had posted lots of photos of Will falling asleep in random situations and places and positions on Instagram (I hash tagged them #sleepandsnooze if you want to see them all) and sometimes I would get some less than encouraging feedback. Of course, people that didn’t know us personally didn’t know his particular situation or why he was tired or why he didn’t like going to bed (I wouldn’t want to go to sleep either if The Crunchy Guy was waiting for me). I didn’t fault them for thinking his sleep habits were off but I didn’t like the fact that some folks blamed our parenting or our sweet scared three year old for his tiredness. In fact, I did feel like taking pictures of him sleeping were a way for us to cope in a healthy way to this phase.
Now I am no pro and this is not a doctor talking or medical advice but what helped us will not guarantee help anyone else (every child is different) but here is what worked for our little guy when dealing with the nightmares. First….it will take time. Also, we found that there are certain things that are triggers for Will and we simply avoid those while doing other things that could help. We avoid intense situations or TV shows that entice fear (even age appropriate shows for Will….especially ones with “bad guys” we allow him to decide if he wants to see them….usually he says no…like we fast forward practically half of The Lion King), we limit chocolate and dairy at night time but make sure he is well hydrated, we encourage lots of physical exercise (oh baseball practice is over? wanna show your little brother how to run the bases?), we pray each night about all the GOOD things that he will dream about (trucks and speed boats and rainbows made of marshmallows) and we are trying hard to teach him to talk through other stressful-to-him ordeals (if a friend does say something mean, we ask him what HE thinks and then we talk about how we are supposed to respond). Talking through situations that we weren’t present for is a big deal to Will. We ask him what happy/sad/scary/funny things happened at school and sometimes the answer is “I got to be line leader! Nothing! Nothing! And a friend pee-peed on the playground fence!” and other times we have sad things to talk about….a friend didn’t want to play tag…or so-and-so said my ears stick out. We are doing our best to teach him truth about himself and others so that he can process those situations easily. Another helpful thing we do is if he does have a nightmare, we go and sit with him and ask him what he saw and then we say over and over in a calm and loving way “It was a dream. It is not real. It didn’t actually happen. It was a dream and it will stay a dream. Let’s pray for good rest.”
Thankfully our little boy has had a resolution to this but I know that some people are plagued by nightmares for a long time. Hopefully this can be encouraging to some of you mamas out there with little ones in that stage. I know it was really hard for me to find accounts with happy endings and I hope that maybe this can be a bright little star in your night!
What about the bad guys in the super hero shows he watches? Those things are frightening and could totally resemble the things Will saw in his sleep.
Casey @Waffling says
It sounds like he has sleep paralysis. Ive never had it, but it is supposed to be terrifying beyond anything.
Also, and I am just asking this out of curiosity and I know you always have your kids’ best interests at heart, do you ever worry about what you put on this blog about your kids’ private moments? Just wondering cause kids grow up fast and eventually some kid at school might google Will Bower and then start teasing him about the Crunchy Man…
He doesn’t watch super hero shows….the only things he knows about super heroes is the things we tell him and from books (which have no bad guys). It’s weird that he loves the super heroes so much even knowing that little bit.
Wow. How terrible! I’m so happy for all of you that you seem to have turned a corner with this! We thankfully have not had to deal with this with either of ours (although they are only 2.5 and 8 mos!). One thing our doctor told us at a our oldest’s 2 year appointment was about their imagination growing and the potential for bad dreams. He said something that I hadn’t even thought about and probably would have done. He said no matter what they say they are scared of, real things like bad guys or burglars, or fake ones like monsters, they don’t exist. Don’t look in the drawers or under the bed and say “nope none here” they just don’t exist. Looking for them adds merit and the possibility of them existing. I just wouldn’t have thought of that! Helpful tip!
All kids go through things and most kids aren’t going to be googling until they hit middle school…and if some middle school kids tease him about a nightmare he had when he was three…I hope and pray that as a parent I have taught him how to laugh at himself and deal with bullying. I am a big believer in that kids tease regardless of what they know…they will even tease if they know nothing at all about that kid.
That is so interesting!
This is a helpful post. Thank you.
I understand the television/movie thing. My 5 year old is also prone to being scared of villains or other bad guys on even very innocuous kids’ shows (like Word Girl on PBS.) We are very careful about what he watches and he always asks to turn something off if it makes him uncomfortable.He is otherwise a brave and adventurous boy, but those things are just too much.
When he does have bad dreams we talk about a “kitten party”. We just imagine a party full of kittens. They have theme parties – space kittens, cowboy kittens, surfing kittens, etc. Those kittens sure can party!
Oh Katie, I am so glad this is (for the most part) resolved for you!! You and Jeremy are such great parents and it brought tears to my eyes to read how comforting you guys are to him. It makes my heart happy and I hope that my husband and I can be as loving and patient has you two are!
Rachel Handing says
I can’t imagine how hard this was for you to write and then to publish. I really, really do appreciate it though. We have an almost 4 year old boy and he used to have night terrors too. Just utterly scream in sheer terror in the middle of the night and we would run in to find a weeping, screaming boy and couldn’t do anything only for him to “wake up” (snap out) of it and continue on. Now he is past that whole phase. He does often have nightmares and does talk in his sleep a LOT. He will often call out for us in the middle of the night and when we walk into his room (10 steps away) he’s sound asleep.
This was really great reading that 1. we aren’t alone and 2. it does get better.
Thanks so much! xoxo
I really appreciate you making the leap to share this. It’s clear it took a great deal of thought and was not an easy choice. It’s also clear you only chose to share it in the hope it will help someone else. While it sounds like the issue is largely resolved and you have it well in hand, I’ll just pass this on in case it might help you or someone else – one thing we’ve tried with bad dreams is to let her pick 4 doors that lead to 4 rooms and there can be anything in the room she wants. Then as we tuck her in we ask her which door she wants to go through. This really doesn’t make nightmares go away – it’s more something that helps her fall asleep if she is afraid of what might come next. Thanks for your courage!
Emily, Our house now a home says
How scary, what an ordeal for him to go through. I am happy things have resolved. My daughter who is 7 has trouble falling asleep because she thinks about any and all scary things. Including vampires (thanks to neighborhood kids for that nugget of knowledge), ants, villians… It goes on. We have found talking it out, validating her fear and worry, talking her down. I was the same way as a kid and was up most nights. I never expressed things though. Having a way to get it all out is so important. My 5 year old son is the same way with emotions you described with Will. He is the heart of our family. He feels it all, likes rules, and has such a gentle nature. He is the one I worry about to go out in the world. At some point his sweet heart will get ruined. Why do they have to grow up?
I came to the comments to ask the same question! Where do you draw the line on what you share about your kids? I agree that kids will tease regardless – but by posting so much personal information on a public site, you are taking away the option for your kids to keep certain things private.
I can’t imagine how it would be to grow up in a world where thousands of strangers know my most personal struggles – and accomplishments, for that matter. I have the same concern about friends and family on Facebook and similar sites. I hate the thought of sharing so much information only to have your child wish otherwise in the future. As they say, the internet is forever – which is why I feel bad for a generation of kids who may not have wanted their parents to share so much info about them and that can never get these private moments back for their own keeping and discretion.
That being said, I’m glad he has gotten over the terrors/nightmares! I have two kids about Will’s age and there’s nothing like seeing them in pain/fear and not being able to take it away!
Holly andler says
We dealt with terrors and now nightmares with our oldest. This might sound silly but I think it sometimes has to do with sleeping hard or in a weird realm of sleep and needing to pee.
It is so hard and so weird. We’ve memorized scriptures, we pray, we don’t watch scary stuff or talk about scary stuff. Their imaginations are developing so quickly and then you throw in body functions and sleep, and it can be a mess. She is now getting close to 7. She almost always go to the bathroom in the night but is wide awake. If she has a bad dream, we redirect her thoughts and pray too. Recently, after an exhausting week, she woke up crying/laughing/dreaming aloud and it took her a while to go back to sweet sleep. She did wake up later and use the bathroom.
Thanks for sharing. You are not alone. Thank God it gets better.
so glad your little guy is out of that phase. My mom claims she didn’t sleep for the first 5 years of my life because I had bad nightmares. I even had a recurring bad dream for about 8 years into my teens until one time I told my friend about it and she said it was a scene from Jumanji. Seriously?! I still monitor what I watch because I dream about everything I take it, so I try to keep the content positive. Yep, 27 still have bad dreams. Go me.
Oh, also, after we identified that Jumanji scene and I watched it as a teenager and was not scared at all, I never had that nightmare again.
Allison Cooley says
My 2 year old used to get night terrors when she was over tired. Super scary being a helpless parent. I’m glad Will outgrew his and I’m sure this post will help a lot of parents out.
My oldest son had night terrors, and I’m telling you, they caused me no end of anxiety! Truly frightening to watch, and no amount of soothing helped. My son also saw things in his room, especially one monster in his closet. I got him a “magic wand” of sorts, that worked all of two days, then the monster came back. He said it never came out of the closet and never did hurt him, but that it was really scary. He is now a grown man of 29, and still remembers the monster very clearly. As a matter of fact, the subject just came up last week. He described it, the sounds it made, and the fact that he could see it clearly, yet I couldn’t. He insisted that when I looked in the closet to reassure him that nothing was there, the monster would look right at me and yet I never saw it, and how strange that was to him as a kid. Pretty weird, right?
My daughter (18 months) hasn’t had any bad dreams (that we know of) yet, but I’m keeping that tip in mind for future reference. I think that’s so smart. They just don’t exist, easy peasy.
The best thing you can do before bed is pray with Will. I went through this same thing as a kid and even still as an adult . So does my older brother. As someone who has suffered will this. I can see why you did share this. I don’t talk about this stuff to anyone but the people who know about it. Most people don’t understand what it going on.
Emily aka The Three Bite Rule says
What a perfectly worded, thought out, and explained post. Kudos to you. I’m so impressed that you’re so open with your readers and I applaud you from sharing the good/bad with us. I hope you don’t deal with any nay-sayers. I think it is so great you shared it with us. I’m a new mom and hadn’t heard of this. Thank you. Well done. You’re doing great!
Emily @ Pretty Handsome says
I haven’t dealt with this, but my kids do occasionally talk in their sleep. My son (age 2) woke up shouting “Shoe!” the other day (which actually made me laugh), but my daughter (age 4) will occasionally say “No” in her sleep. I’m always wondering what she may be dreaming about. Also, she really wants to remember her dreams, so I’ll sometimes hear her say to herself before she goes to sleep, “Brain, remember my dreams tonight, okay? Okay.”
Thank you for sharing your life with us, Katie. My daughter used to have the night terrors and nightmares too. I felt everything you just described. My story had a happy ending too, the nightmares stopped eventually and when she had them we practiced a lot of the same strategies that you talked about. Your post will definitely help any other parent out there experiencing the same. 🙂
Oh I feel for him and you! I’ve struggled with sleep my entire life. I was an odd one and had night terrors starting in middle school and lasting through college (we think stress related). I don’t remember them but the way my family describes the blood curtling screams, I’m glad I don’t. I also used to have horrible nightmares and sleep walked. I still don’t like sleeping alone and still like a nightlight as an adult. I’m so glad to hear that your son isn’t having the nightmares as often. When I was having them I could rarely describe details, just feelings. I too found stress and new situations brought them on. I would even wake up from the nightmare thinking it was still happening and have the fear that people were out to get me or trick me when trying to console or calm me down. That fear is the worst. I wouldn’t be surprised if my son inherits my poor sleeping so I’ll definitely be keeping your tips in mind just in case. Thanks for sharing!
[email protected] says
I had intense recurring nightmares about a train as a little kid for years. I still get the shivers when I hear a train whistle but luckily they did go away as I got older. Thinking about your sweet little guy and glad he is better!
Rachel S. says
So glad it’s worked out for you! My son (21 months) used to have what I called “nightmare cries” as a baby. Every nap he’d let out the saddest, heart-wrenching wail in his sleep and I’d go running to try and soothe him. I always wondered what in the world could scare an innocent, little baby like that. He also had a few night terrors recently and that was AWFUL. So sorry Will and you all had to endure all of that!
I’m glad Will is doing well. FWIW, I’m a very well adjusted, successful, happy (annoyingly so according to my husband) 35 year old woman and I STILL have nightmares where I wake myself up screaming. Some folks brains are just more active at night. I also talk in my sleep and occasionally sleep walk. When I travel with friends they always threaten to drug me with ambien so they’ll be able to sleep :). sooo… hopefully this is a good trend for Will and the nightmares continue to diminish, but don’t worry if they don’t!
What a blessing that all is well now. What a wonderful mother Will has to care so much for him. <3
Our “big” guy (3.5 years) is going through something similar, though not as intense. He really seems scared to go to sleep in his room that he shares with his younger brother. Once he is sleeping, he almost always wakes up crying and has a very hard time going back to sleep unless we leave the room. I’m relieved that even though it will take time, he should outgrow it…or at least be able to vocalize what is going on sooner or later.
God bless you lady! I can’t imagine going thru that with my littles or the bravery it took to put it out there. Thanks for sharing, thanks for being real, just a lot of thanks. I’ve learned a lot of things from you and I appreciate the help! This is why I keep reading, candid, honest and vulnerable, like we all should be, like we really need to be to help each other.
Thanks for sharing Katie. This is really insightful. I am glad that Will is having more restful sleeps! xo
I will be 50 in October and I remember having bad dreams as a kid. So terrifying. I actually still have them on occasion. It sounds to me like you are doing everything right! Good job Mom and Dad!
I had these terrible when I was a child, clear into high school, then my daughter started having them when she was a year old or so. The biggest help that I found for both of us, is a clock radio that is always on in the room. I don’t know why, but I always thought maybe the music would bring me out of the sleep a little faster and kind of “interrupt” the nightmare or terror. It’s worth a shot, if the frequency picks back up 🙂 Good luck to you and your little man!!
How terrifying! I think I might have nightmares about the crunchy man and sticky things now! 🙁 In all seriousness, our little one had a night terror probably around 10/11 months and we did the same thing – DH held him, me and the baby crying, DH and I scared to death until he woke up and thought it was time to play! Luckily, we had no more and have only had maybe 1 or 2 more instances like nightmares but nothing he really remembers when he wakes up. I have nightmares still as an adult and cannot imagine having them every night – I wouldn’t want to sleep either. So glad it’s worked out for the better!
When my daughter was 5 or 6, she swore she would have bad dreams if she had a particular pillow case the “wrong” way. It had stripes on one side and polka dots on the other. All we had to do was flip it over and the bad dreams went away. She did finally get to the point of just not wanting to use that pillow case…it wasn’t worth the bother, even if it was cute. 🙂
My son had night terrors for a period of time when he was 3. It happened when my mom, who watched him during the day, got double pneumonia and he suddenly had to go to daycare full time (he already went part-time). He didn’t see my mom for weeks. He had night terrors pretty regularly during that 4-week period.
He was always fine when he woke up but it scared me to death!
Anyway, I’m glad to hear (read?) the nightmares have lessened and Will is doing so well. I always thought the photos of Will asleep in different places were hilarious!
I meant “villains”. Which ones have none? We tried to buy basic board books and early readers super hero books and they all have a villain or bad person in them.
Thankful things have improved for Will (and his mommy and daddy). As parents, we want to fix everything and it is so frustrating when we can’t. I had nightmares when I was a child. When I got older I learned a verse at church. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee”. Psalms 56:3. I still say that verse when I feel afraid or unsure. Thank heavens for understanding parents such as you two. Also, people who criticize photos of a sleeping child, have bigger problems. Wear an emotional raincoat and let those negative remarks just slide off.
I am a long-time reader from Canada, and I have gone through the night terrors with my daughter, Clara. She is a terrible sleeper and wakes frequently, but when she was around 10 or 11 months she would have night terrors a couple times a week. It’s so hard to watch them go through that. I am so glad Will has outgrown them and has such supportive parents!
Oh, Katie! Thank you so much for sharing. I love how much respect and care you have for Will, that you waited to share, and that you have been so patient in working with him. I’m so glad he is doing better!
You’ve probably read/heard mountains of ideas at this point, but have you ever seen the book Quiet by Susan Cain? (http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352153/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?ie=UTF8&ref_=redir_mdp_mobile) It has a whole chapter about parenting techniques for working with more reserved kids. These kids are often misunderstood as having a “problem” when in fact they may just get easily overstimulated or need more quiet time. It sounds like Will might be this way, so perhaps that chapter would be helpful for you guys.
Keep up the great work, KB! You are one great mama!
I’m so glad he’s doing better! His bad guys sounded intense! My oldest is my child who gets nightmares every once and a while. She is really shaken up by them at the time, but always wakes up happy in the morning.
What a lucky boy to have such wonderful parents. I had nightmares as a child and still have the same recurring ones now as a 32 year old. You are doing a great job and your boy is blessed. This is a tricky subject and I hope that others busy-body-ness will back off and just see your deep love and efforts as a momma. You are a truly amazing mom. Good luck!!
I am really thankful that you posted this — my son, Zakk, is 5 (6 next week!), so we are well past this now, but I truly know how upsetting that was for you. He had night terrors as an infant as well, and would randomly have nightmares in his 3s — 1 or 2 per week. Terrifying is completely the right word — it was soo horrible! The blood curdling screams — soo soo horrible!!
I soo appreciate you putting this out there, because like you, I tried to do research online, and got nothing either, so to bring awareness to it for other moms that will go through this, hopefully this will help them, and of course, make them feel not so alone, dealing with all those fears about your child!! 🙂
You do good things Katie!!
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Praying with you! My son had nightmares for a short time. Now every night we pray Psalm 91 over him and they have not continued.
The terror I felt for him was overwhelming!! And there are few stories from real moms online. Thank you for your candidness in sharing this!
We only have Look & Find books, Superhero sticker books and Spider Sense Spider-Man series books. Those are the ones we have found!
Yes yes yes! That’s a great book. 2 other good ones: Simplicity Parenting and The Overly Sensitive Child. I never had an issue with nightmares, but reading these as an adult gave me so much insight into my sensitivities as a child and the sensitivities of a few of my kids. You’re doing such a great job helping Will process this crazy world. If neither you nor Jeremy are sensitive people (or at least not the same flavor of sensitive as Will) then these books might be helpful. Thanks for sharing your journey!
Laura B says
I have had nightmares my whole life. So it was no surprise that my kid has nightmares. I swear my older kid got 80% of his genes from me. I also remember most of my dreams the good/weird/bad…..and so does he. Talking about them helps a lot. Fast forwarding anything that seems scary also helps. I can’t believe so many scary things are in little kid movies!
We still occasionally my 8 year old will still have a nightmare, but every night when we tuck her in, we say this little rhyme:
Bad Dreams, Bad Dreams, Go away!
Good Dreams, Good Dreams, Come and stay!
it helped her relax and not get anxious about the possibility of having a bad dream!
Wow, I hope things keep getting better for your son!
For as long as I remember I’ve had very vivid dreams, good dreams as well as horrible nightmares. Like Will I kept dreaming about the same scary things and creatures, and actually there’s one particular dream that I still have sometimes – I’m 42 now, and I remember having that dream when I was 9. It’s as if my subconscious likes to stick with dreams it knows are ‘working’.
What helped me a lot was trying to recall the dreams as closely as possible and thinking up solutions. I don’t know if that already is an option for Will, I think I started doing that when I was 11 or 12.
As I said, I still have vivid dreams, and there is one utterly horrifying dream I still get occasionally. The first time I had it was just before my final exams at university, and to this day it’s my standard dream for when I feel trapped and helpless.
Actually, what helped me deal with my dreams was at university – my subject was English literature, and when I worked out the ‘plot’ of the dream instead of what was happening I was able to understand the reason behind the dream. That helped me SO MUCH (it’s good to know my years as a student weren’t a complete waste of time!).
Maybe you can find out what is causing the particular dreams if you can nail down the ‘essence’ of the dream – so for the Sticky Things for example, is it the fact that someone/something is in his room? Are they just scary looking? Does he feel they are going to attack him, or one of his brothers? Does he feel trapped?
I’m probably not explaining this very well, but basically what I used to do was try to find out the general feeling of the nightmare: For example, in one dream I was in a scary old hospital with friends, and everytime I looked at them, another one was missing. I worked out that it wasn’t fear of hospitals or unknown places, but the fear of losing friends and being alone (that was a dream I had during a time I was preparing to change jobs and move to a new place).
It takes a bit of practice, but it helped me a lot, and maybe you find it helpful, too. 🙂
Sara G says
My 5 year old used to wake up almost every night crying from bad dreams. He would never really tell me what they were about but I’m happy to say he’s outgrown them for the most part! I’m happy to hear (read) that Will is doing better too!! That crunchy man does sound very scary 🙁
Thanks for sharing this. My son just turned 3, and I think he has been having nightmares for several months now. We just had a baby, so I suspect they may be a way of dealing with his new little brother, sharing attention from mom, etc. But he’ll wake up very suddenly, crying inconsolably. I have tried talking to him about the content, but he doesn’t seem to remember them, even when I tell him what he was saying during the nightmare (he’s a sleep talker). I’m glad your son is outgrowing the nightmares–hopefully my son’s nightmares will be a phase that he will outgrow before too much longer.
Thank you so much for sharing this! My daughter, who is 4, had night terrors when she was an infant and it was so scary to my husband and I. She did grow out of them and now occasionally has nightmares. We have employed a lot of the same strategies that you talk about, and I am so glad to know that Will is doing well now. I am especially grateful for your post because it has opened up this conversation and allowed people to share their experiences and resources, which can be difficult to find sometimes – and some of them I am definitely going to look into! xoxo
Thanks for sharing! My 3 year old tells me in detail about the man with eyes on his cheeks that comes to her room at night. I get freaked out just listening to her! I can’t imagine dealing with the same level as poor Will. As a parent, you do everything you can to protect them from the world but when the world in inside their heads, it makes you feel totally helpless. You are such a good momma! Thanks for this wonderful blog!
I’m sorry for poor Will! I’m a child psychologist and I wonder if you spanking Will is related to the nightmares. If you think from a child’s perspective having a parent who they love so much then physically hurt them on purpose is a terrifying idea
poor will! i’m glad you posted this and that there is a “happy ending”
one of mine had terrible night terrors that started very, very young. i have no idea if it’s true or not, but our pediatrician said that there was a correlation between children that have nightmares and parents who talk in their sleep-and my husband does in fact talk (and laugh – ha!) in his sleep. but it could also be a myth. we never really paid much attention to it, because regardless of whether or not he was talking in his sleep, SHE was still having nightmares. 😉
Thanks for sharing!
Katie, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I’m really happy that Will is no longer having really bad nightmares. It sounds like you guys did everything you could to make the situation better.
As a mom it is really hard not to be able to help them through something so scary like their dreams.
My toddler doesn’t watch tv either, only some really cute educational cartoons that are called Become God’s friend (Sofia and Caleb) on TV.jw.org
Hi Katie, it’s so great that Will is doing much better. I had similar nightmares and sometimes saw green people in my room, floaty, distorted looking things even when I woke up. My dad always prayed with me when I had a nightmare, but he taught me to use the name of Jesus. So much power and peace in that name! Never too young to call on Jesus!
Was Will taking multivitamins when he was having nightmares and night terrors? I am only asking because I suffered from night terrors (ages 1-7, my poor parents) and nightmares (7-13) but they eventually stopped until I started taking a multivitamin as an adult. I did some research and discovered that chromium can trigger nightmares and terrors in some people. Many doctors don’t know about this or believe it isn’t true but I can safely say that chromium was behind my nightmares as an adult and possibly even as a child.
I think this is good to share with other young moms. I’m 52, and I remember my younger brother(by 7 years) waking up with night terrors when he was a baby and young child. It was terrifying for my whole family, and we never knew what to do. He did eventually grow out of the terrors, but it morphed into sleep talking and sleep walking, which can be funny and scary too. For myself, I have always had nightmares, the first one I remember was when I was bout 4 years old and I can still vividly recall every detail. Some were recurring, and some are just random; it happens about 1x a month still. So sorry your boy has to go through this, he is blessed to have such caring parents to help him.
Kristin R says
I have been following your blog for many years but have never commented until now! This post really resonated with me because I have been living with social/general anxiety my whole life. I was diagnosed at about 12/13 years old, put on medication, and I’m now 25. 2 years ago I made the choice to go off my medication because I knew I had developed the skills to get myself through any situation that came my way. This isn’t the case for everyone, and I know that for some people medication is the only solution. This is just what worked for me.
As a child, I too suffered from nightmares. My parents tried numerous things including dream catchers, sleeping with lights on, no tv, etc. eventually I grew out of them!
I just wanted to share with you that I think you are doing everything right for Will. Teaching him to feel comfortable around other adults and learning to talk through his emotions with you is SO important. When he watches you deal with pain he is taking Every single detail in, I do this in many situations. I am a watcher and I observe things before trying them on my own.
Continue working with Will on sharing his feelings about the things he sees around him, but also share your thoughts and feelings about the things you see with him, and have Jeremy do the same. I truly believe if I was encouraged to do this more when I was younger, it would have made a significant difference in my adult life!
Will sounds like an amazing kid and he is lucky to have parents like you two who care for him and work with him through his troubles!
Sending good vibes your way-
Patsy Foresi says
I think you’re an amazing mom, always trust your gut (sounds like you do)!!! Mine are grown, never had that with ours, sorry that you have. Enjoy that beautiful family!!!
I’m so glad Will is doing better. It’s so hard to navigate these things as a parent (especially without an instruction booklet). It sad that people feel they can make negative comments about your child’s sleep patterns and your parenting habits etc. Parenting is hard enough and this HUGE pet peeve of mine. We are all doing the best we can. Sounds like you listened to your instincts, and are seeing results. Hang in there, mama!
Sassy Apple says
I didn’t read through all the other comments, so I apologize in advance if this is repetitive. Have you ever heard of Highly Sensitive People (HSP)? I first read about it on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blog, took a quiz that it linked to…and oh boy! The cliche, ‘It’s like they know me!’ couldn’t have been more true. There’s also a quiz for parents to take about their children, and MMD discusses it in her blog occasionally because she and at least one of her children fall into this category. Oh, and don’t freak. It’s not a bad thing, at all. There are many positive qualities and some….quirks to work through. Good luck!
Hi there Katie, I have sleep paralysis (feeling like you’re stuck in sleep and something really bad is about to happen and you can’t help it because you can’t wake up/move/speak) and watched a video on YouTube the other day that really helped me understanding it. It explained that during that time between deep sleep and being awake there is a tendency for hallucination, that’s why it feels so real! For example having a strong feeling that there is someone/something else in the room, usually I try really hard to open my eyes but can’t and still with my eyes closed I “see” figures moving in the shadows. It is scary, but usually when I wake up I just turn on all the lights and feel much better 🙂 In the video it also said that having company while you sleep can help, a person or a pet, because feeling them next to you somehow makes the nightmare less real.
The title of the video is very silly (and the setting… and the guy :P) but the content is very interesting and since watching it I’ve read more on the subject, here is the link:
By the way, I’m 25 now and while I remember having nightmares when I was younger it wasn’t an everyday thing. I do remember one occasion very well: after watching the Guiness World Records show , in that episode there was a lady that made a hole in her own head because she believed letting air in on the brain would make her smarter, well that night I dreamed I was in a vortex of flying skulls all with a hole in the middle of the forehead. I was 11 or 12 and while I usually stayed alone at home on Saturday mornings while my mom worked that day I asked her if my grandmother could come over and keep me company 😛
I had a recurring dream from the age of 3 until I was in my early 30’s–of being in my bed, asleep and realizing my bed was full of snakes, and I was paralyzed and could not move in the dream-and I would wake up crying and terrified, and I was not able to go back to sleep that night.
Some how in my early 30’s after working on it for a while –I actually was in therapy–in my dream–I actually was able to get up–and I went and got a broom –in the dream–and swept the snakes out of my house–and slammed the door, and the dream went away, and never came back. I think it was somehow working through how the dream could be different by me taking action against the thing that scared me is what finally made it happen.
So glad to hear he’s doing better–you’re right–happy endings are always better.
I’m glad to hear that these aren’t as frequent for Will as they used to be. I have very vivid dreams as well but mine are about real-life situations. I often wake up crying, laughing, talking, screaming.
Omg I was just kicking myself for not mentioning the highly sensitive child as well! Thanks for bringing it up 🙂
we haven’t dealt with nightmares but my 3.5 yr old has had night terrors since he was about a year old. They are terrible and traumatic for us, but he doesn’t even remember them. It like he is having a tantrum while fully asleep. I’m crossing my fingers he outgrows them soon. They do seem to come and go in cycles and a missed nap usually guarantees a night terror. Thank you for sharing this, it gives me some home that he will outgrow them at some point.
I think you’re awesome; that’s all…
I used to have bad dreams when I was really young…I was always playing at a playground with some friends when a lion would run out of the forest. I never made it to the car in time and I usually woke up with the lion’s mouth about to engulf my face! It sounds so silly to me now, but we had a picture of a lion in my bedroom. Once my mom know that scared me she took the picture away and those dreams stopped. I used to have bad dreams in high school/college where I was see a dark desert. The sand would move and shift like there was a wind. For whatever reason those dreams made me think of the devil and really, REALLY freaked me out. I don’t think I screamed to wake up but I often would sing a hymn to calm down. I have since because really good and identifying my dreams. I can usually alter them when something bad is going to happen. I don’t have any more reoccurring dreams, but I dream about those in my family getting hurt/kidnapped/killed. It is never me, but the people I love. I have only had three dreams like that about my children…those are the hardest. One about my husband and I used to have a bunch of my little sister before I was ever married.
My son has had night terrors. He has also had a few bad dreams…though he cannot quite vocalize them. My daughter has had one nightmare that I can think of…I hurt her in her dream (it just crushed me to hear that one). I appreciate hearing this, just in case I will have more bad dreams to deal for my children. It breaks my hurt to hear that Will has suffered so much fear…I know that feeling and would never want a child to feel that way….and I don’t even know you except that I have read your blog for years. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Oh, I feel this so much! Our 8 year old daughter had the same issues. When in first grade, she had an awesome teacher (Christian School), who was so helpful in teaching the kids about prayer and answered prayer. My daughter then felt more in control, and learned so many different ways to pray – which helped her immensely in feeling that she was not alone and did not have to be scared. It was so great to have a non-family member repeat what we teach at home. In training the kids to sit still and focus, she got them active and working together as a class to learn. The nightmares are rare now, and while she still sleep walks and talks when she is anxious or can’t sleep, she is no longer waking up screaming.
He was taking an age appropriate vitamin…I don’t think toddlers take chromium 🙂
xo – kb
Interesting! Both Jeremy and I do talk in our sleep so that could be something.
xo – kb
I think in general some readers…apparently you included…misunderstand what we define as spankings. We are talking about a loud pat on a diapered bottom…that is after a LOT of LONG discipline techniques…time-outs, talks, and distractions. We do not hurt our children and the accusation that we are is inappropriate. Until you are in my home and see what we do….you should not assume.
xo – kb
My 1st little man had night terrors for about 6ish months starting when he was only a few months old. It was absolutely terrifying! ! Especially when they can’t communicate well (or at all), its frightening. Thankfully all night terrors have stopped and none of our 3 boys have had any experience with nightmares so far.
I remember having nightmares when I was little, though. Usually it was about a witch trying to find me. I spent a lot of nights with my blankets over my head (I thought if no one could see me I would be safer) in a lot of fear. Praying helped, of course, but once my mom put a dream catcher in my room all my nightmares stopped. I don’t know if they really “work” or if just the idea of them put my mind at ease enough to stop the bad dreams.
Maybe a dream catcher would be something to consider looking into for your sweet boy. Either way, I’m so happy he isn’t having night terrors and his nightmares aren’t as frequent. ♡♡
So happy to hear things have improved to much.
We’ve had a similar start to your story with our three year old son who is also very sensitive and a rule follower. He started getting bad nightmares at two, but couldn’t verbalize them to us, became terrified of the dark/ noises outside. We’ve worked hard to help him realized that noises and the dark are not bad. “Orion & the Dark” is a really great book to help with that. Nightmares, and fears have greatly improved and night terrors just started.
I have heard parents have great success talking about the scary thing any finding a way to make it goofy; since you know what scares him this could help. For example if he wakes up because of the crunchy guy then tell him if he sees him again to poke him in the eye! and other silly things that happen in cartoons. By laughing at nightmares it can help disarm it.
Since you mentioned you also talk in your sleep, like Will, I just wanted to mention that talking in your sleep can be genetic, right along with night terrors, and walking in your sleep. Just be aware he could wonder downstairs and get a snack in his sleep. (I have by father in law to thank for my son having all three of the above.)
Such a great and helpful post for other parents Katie!
I am 31, I was raised by my grandparents, and I grew up in a “believer” home. My grandparents were believers in God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit.
I grew up having nightmares. I fought sleep with the best of them. I would cry and plead, but I had to go to bed. Mamaw would pray and I’ll tell her out wouldn’t do any good, because it didn’t stop the nightmares.
One night one of my Aunts was in town, and I was fighting sleep she asked me about it and I told her about the nightmares. She said let’s pray and it doesn’t work, then she said let’s talk instead.
We made a list of everything good. Rainbows, ponies, horses, dogs, puppies etc. It really helped. That night I dreamed about good happy things I feel asleep talking about. It became my ritual.
To this day I don’t sleep well, I don’t like to sleep, but I still fall asleep either counting or making a list. If I don’t I dream. And dreams aren’t good most of the time.
My babysitter (when I was a kid) told me to pray “Please don’t let me have any bad dreams” three times before bed–always worked for me! Now I try it with my two-year-old as part of our prayers. Worth a shot!
This hit home with me.
My daughter had night terrors for a couple years (we appear to have grown out of them) and they are the most horrible thing ever. To hear my baby scream and shake in fear and not be able to wake her up is so sad. The look on her eyes (which would be open, even though she was not aware at all of her surroundings) will forever be engraved in my memory. I’m sure you know that feeling.
We then went onto nightmares. Cutting out sugar before bed definitely helped a ton and now, although she still gets nightmares, they are much less frequent and usually about logical things, such as tornadoes.
I’m sorry you had to deal with this, but I’m actually happy to read your post. You have a handful of beautiful boys… but you have only said here that Will has had the problem. That gives me hope that our second daughter won’t have to go through this!
So glad that Will is doing better! My daughter suffered from night terrors too and it was hands down the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through. Her first one I didn’t even know what was wrong or what a night terror was, but just like you said, her eyes were open and she was thrashinging about and screaming and there was no getting through to her. Finally we were able to link that she only had night terrors when we would give her Tylenol, which we would only sometimes do while she was teething and for low grade fevers. We’ve since become a no Tylenol household and she, thankfully, hasn’t had one since. I’m so grateful you wrote this post, now I will know to be on the lookout if she does develop nightmares and I’ll have some ideas to try to help her cope. Thank you for always being so honest and real!
Thank you for sharing this! I can imagine why you’d hold onto it until now and it breaks my heart to think your sweet boy (who we’ve all loved seeing updates on over the years!) had such a terrifying experience with sleep. I was afraid of the dark as a kid and that was enough to keep me up all night. I can’t even imagine something as intense as you all went through. I’m so glad it has all finally slowed down. It looks like you guys know exactly what your little boy needs and how to show him he’s safe and loved. You win parenting in my book! And I’m sure there are so many readers whose kids have experienced something similar to this that your post will give hope to and help. I hope Will continues to have good sleep!! 🙂
I know you have a lot of others commenting, but I wanted to let you know we went through the same thing with our daughter at 3. It was so hard and it took so long to realize what the triggers were. We tried all sorts of things before we realized the triggers. We talked about creating our dreams by thinking of happy moments in our lives or scenes from shows that would make her laugh. We had room spray that we would spray to keep bad dreams away. We had a dream catcher, we would bang pots before bed to scare away bad things, she listened to hindu chants to relax, and our dog slept with her. She did well for awhile, then reverted last year when she was 7. We ended up seeking out a psychologist to help. She said we had used all the right tools, we just had to help our daughter learn to use them. She has anxiety and it was becoming heightened and night was a bad time. We got the book “What to do when you dread the bed” as recommended by our psychologist. This helped a bunch and also just having another adult, not her parents, day that what she was feeling was ok, but we had to learn to tell our bodies that it was not real, the fear was not necessary in certain situations. It is amazing the difference we have seen. I do agree that waiting until your child is ready to talk is a big thing. We talked to our daughter about what the “talking doctor” is and that they are there to help and not hurt. She was very receptive and even decided on her own when she didn’t need to talk to the doctor anymore. But one important thing we all tell her is that she can always go back and talk to the doctor. We are all there for her and she can decide what she needs and wants. HUGS and good luck!
Years ago I lived with a roommate and I used to have terrible dreams about the devil. She and her boyfriend were strange people and wanted to make a crystal ball to attract the spirits. I was attending a great church and mentioned to this to someone and they said, “What makes them think they are going to get ‘happy’ spirits’? They could get an evil spirit disguised as a good spirit.” It scared the you know what outta me! Then they suggested I pray “the blood of Jesus” over me if I woke up from the bad dreams. It worked.
My sister used to live in a two bedroom condo and strange things would happen in the spare bedroom…..swarms of flies in the room for no reason, ice cold temps, etc. Turns out someone died or committed suicide in that room!
Not to go all ‘whoo whoo’ on you, but you might try burning some sage or sprinkling some holy water in his room or some other cleansing ritual.
Lisa T says
I didn’t read all of the comments, so sorry if I;m echoing someone else. First, Katie, I think you are awesome! I think it’s amazing you wrote all of this out. I am sure it will help some other parents who are in a state of panic right now.
Second, though I haven’t experienced this with my children, I do believe the devil is real and he is out to terrorize all children, regardless if their parents are Christians or not. The Bible says he comes to steal, kill and destroy and I have never taken that lightly as a parent. When we moved into our new home last year, my husband and I walked around our home and declared aloud that the home is ours and because we are Christians, only the Lord’s angels would be allowed to enter. I pray every night that the Lord would send angels to stand guard around my sons, and that they would keep all things evil away that would want to interrupt their sleep or their dreams. Do I have “proof” this works… not at all. But I believe it and I’ll keep praying for my boys every night. I am sure they will have nightmares some time, and I will go to them and pray. It warms my heart when my oldest wakes up in the middle of the night a little afraid. When I go to him, he asks, “mommy, will you pray?” and I love that he is learning that God’s comfort and peace is real.
Thank you. This post today, of all days, was exactly what I needed. My son turns 3 in December and has recently (6 or so months ongoing) developed an imaginary person (not friend). He refers to him solely as “the man” and occasionally he is accompanied by “the lady”. The man follows him to school and hides from him and at night scares him in his room. I have awoke on several occasions to him screaming “GO AWAY” in his sleep and it is terrifying. Sometimes he wakes up screaming and writhing and nothing and noone can calm him down. He begs to be held but at the same time fights us when we try to comfort him and its utterly heartbreaking. These episodes last for a 5 to 10 minutes and then all of the sudden hes back to normal. He has no recollection of the episode and cannot understand why we are so terrified. I’ve suspected its some form of night terrors when he is trying to transition from sleep to wake. He tells his teacher all about the man and where he is at all times. He tells me too. The other day we were in the pool and he simply said “Mama, the man is cutting their yard.” Then proceeded to ask the man to cut our lawn next. We chalked this up to just imaginary friend type thing until recently when it started to affect his sleep. He is now going on two weeks of battling bed time and staying up in his crib until past midnight. He wakes up so sleep deprived and zombie like it breaks my heart. We are taking him to his pediatrician this week actually to find out what we can do to cope with this issue. Thank you for sharing your story with Will and I’m so happy to hear that things have improved with him. This post has given me hope that this is a temporary stage and that we might also get a happy ending.
Vanessa B. says
When my son would have nightmares and wake up in the middle of the night, I would ask him what it was about and then we would make up a good ending for it. You know how you always wake up at the most intense and scary part? Well, we would make up an ending that made it all better and then he would fall back asleep. I also rub his head every night and say, “Only sweet, sweet dreams for this boy”. I don’t know if it helps him – but it helps me! 🙂
I love everything you share about your children. You have a beautiful family. My two boys had recurring dreams around the age of 4 or 5 and it is very hard to see. Just like you, we wanted to help and we rattled our brains trying to figure them out. One son, for some reason, had nightmares about caw-caws (crows). We aren’t sure why they scared him, but we gave him his little pop to sleep with and told him to shoot the caw-caws. This did the trick for him. Our other son had nightmares about big eyeballs and his curtains reaching out to get him. We tied the curtains together so they couldn’t move, but had no idea what to do about the eyeballs. We told him to poke them or punch them because eyeballs are really sensitive. We finally figured out the eyeballs were from a game he played on his nintendo, so by helping him learn how to “beat that level”, that particular dream ended. I think empowering them with ways to stand up to whatever is scaring them is very helpful.
Nicole Chiles says
The struggles are just as important to share as the good stuff. Everyone goes through something and it helps more than you can imagine to hear people’s experiences and outcomes and emotions about the tough stuff life throws your way. Thanks for sharing.
Fingers crossed Jamie! I hope your appointment goes well and that it is just a stage that your little guy will grow out of!
xo – kb
Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this! I am a soon-to-be mom and this sort of thing never even crossed my mind, I’m sure there are a lot more things like that out there that WILL cross my mind, but I’m really happy to have read about your experience with this. Poor little boy! Good luck for the continued decline of nightmares! Sounds like he is learning some excellent management skills for when they DO happen!
I used to have terrible nightmares as a child, and I think it’s just related to being a high anxiety person. Things can be scary in a dream, even if you logically know it makes no sense when you’re awake. My 8 yr old daughter goes through phases when she has nightmares, and we just do what my parents did for me. She knows if she has a nightmare she is more than welcome to come to our room and sleep on the floor the rest of the night. We always talk through it and remind her that it isn’t real life. Just being in the same room with us helps. Honestly, I still have nightmares as an adult (Although I had a fairly tramatic childhood so it could be relate to that) but now it’s a lot easier to wake up and remind myself that is was just a dream. Occasionally I’ll need to get up and do something like read a chapter or two of a very happy non stressful book, and then it takes my mind off it enough to go back to sleep.
Pam Groom says
Bravo for walking along side your kid as he struggles with nightmares. As a sensitive, nightmare prone kid who grew up, I adore you for taking the time and energy to invest in your children. You are establishing great habits that will benefit them a lifetime!
I’m sorry I didn’t have the time to read all the comments, it seems this post hit home with a lot of people… I rarely comment myself, but I feel this might be worth sharing.
When my daughter went through a nightmare phase (I think she was around 5), we read this book about dreams and nightmares. I won’t bother you with the details as I know it’s not translated in English, the thing is she really enjoyed the book. And then a local library held a book-signing with this particular writer, so naturally we went. There was a really poor turnout, only 5-6 kids were there, so this woman sat down with them, talked a tiny bit about the book and then started discussing about dreams and nightmares with the children. Some amazing things were said by the kids, so then she gave them paper and pens and told them to draw the scariest dream/creature they’ve ever seen. She then went over each one separately, getting them to make alterations to their terrifying pictures so they become funny ones! All the children were very excited by this process and she told them to do this in the mornings after a scary night.
This helped my daughter immensely, we had a few morning drawings of huge spiders playing football or getting manicures(!!!) and very quickly she was able to do this without even having to draw. If she’ d wake up from a dream I would go to her, she would tell me about it (never talked about them before) and we’d proceed giving her dream a funny twist right then. Minutes later she’d laugh it out and go to sleep relaxed. She very rarely has bad dreams now (she’s 9), and when she does she just tells me “I woke up too soon, when it was still scary. I must have missed the good part!”
I know every child is different, but drawing is a great way to confront fears and I saw all the kids feeling very empowered by this trick that day in the library, so I thought I’d share…
Glad Will is dealing with all this in such a supportive and caring environment, hope all little ones can have the same when they need it…
Thanks for sharing this very personal (yet shared by others) issue. My grandson, who leaps head first into life, had nightmares after seeing “Frozen” when he was eight. He was very upset about mean Prince Hans (spoiler alert for any mom who hasn’t seen “Frozen” twenty times). He may be brave as a lion but his heart is soft as a kitten … sometimes. His little sis (age three) has seen “Frozen” a bunch of times with no problems.
Each kid is so individual and you just have to be there to give them the help they need.
I am a grown woman and a number of years ago I had nightmares that would wake me up from a sound sleep and I would scream so loud that my neighbors would hear me. My neighbors are not that close by either. It was absolutely terrifying so I can’t imagine your poor little guy going through this. I was so afraid to fall asleep. I used to wake up seeing a man in my room. Someone gave me a dream catcher which saved me. I never had another nightmare again. I will always have that dream catcher on the post on my bed. I was willing to try anything to rid myself of the nightmares. Please try it. It worked miracles for me.
My son (who is now 16) had night terrors for 15 years. I am so grateful he finally out grew them but he also went through a phase of nightmares too around the age a 4 and 5. Every child’s processes his world in different ways so no one solution is right for everyone. What ever your doing seems to be working and I am glad for your entire family. Sleep peacefully!!
That line is hard to explain other than to say…I feel we (both Jeremy and I…I read all the personal posts to Jer so that he can hear them before publishing) as parents decide to share things that meet certain requirements…they need to be helpful to others, or positive about or to my child, or obviously tongue-in-cheek about the kids. I think that immature individuals don’t decide if those things meet those requirements (aka kids don’t decide if something is helpful…adults do). We understand that one day they will want to be absent from the blog…and I will honor that. I think that probably sometime in middle school they will opt out 🙂 And trust me…you don’t know everything about my kiddos!
xo – kb
This is a ridiculous thing to suggest. If Will is having bad dreams about imaginary bad guys that don’t exist, why would you want to perform some sort of useless ritual to cleanse the room? If the dreams don’t terrify Will, then seeing his mom do a ridiculous ritual in his room will. All this would do is perpetuate the myth of magical thinking in his life. Children deserve to be taught reality, and I think that Katie telling Will the dreams aren’t real and the things don’t exist outside of his dream world, is the right thing to do.
I feel so sorry for you and what you feel like you have to do to protect your children and house. You need to teach your children to trust themselves, and to know that they are in control over their fears, and that they can conquer them. Teaching them to pray for comfort teaches them that they are not in control of their lives. The best gift you can give them is to teach them that they ARE in control of their lives. Instead of praying with them when they get scared, ask them instead how they can make themselves feel better and they’ll probably give you some suggestions (I’d like my blanket, a drink, my stuffed bear, etc). Unfortunately in your case it sounds like you’re a very fearful person and I hope that you can show your children your power and trust in yourself so they don’t grow up to be terrified of the world.
I’m so glad Will is doing better. At 14 months my daughter had her first night terror. She had a few after and we linked it to Red 40. We could not comfort her and they only occurred when she had it. Our pediatrician told us it’s common and it’s possible that she may grow out of it but at age 3.5 now we don’t allow her to have any. It sounds like Will may have/had something different but I wanted to comment in case other people may have a similar situation.
When I was 14-15 years old, I started having similar nightmares. Mine were always when I was at school, and I would turn a corner and there he was. Honestly he didn’t look very scary, sort of a goth kid, but for reason he scared me so much I would wake up struggling to breathe and my heart pounding out of my chest, crying and not able to go back to sleep, sometimes for days until sheer exhaustion took me down. This ‘thing’ never said a word to me, no one else saw him, and to this day (I’m 38 next week) just the thought of him will make it hard for me to relax and go to sleep. My mother talked to me about it, and her advice is something I still think of today. She told me to pray to God every night before bed, and ask him to watch over me and protect me in my dreams. She also told me to try and imagine myself in the dream talking to this ‘thing’ and calmly inform him that God is my protector and to please leave me alone. Somehow this worked like a charm for me. I am also a pretty deep thinker and like to analyze everything, figure it all out and solve/work out my own problems. For me, having a ‘defense’ against the scary thing made it less scary, and eventually the nightmares stopped completely, and this advice has helped me in every day life. Good luck with Will, God bless!
Sam M says
Our 5 year old, like me, has some daytime and nighttime anxiety issues. Watching “behind the scenes” and “how it’s made” type shows has really helped her cope with most of her bad dreams. Once she understood the computer generation and costuming & makeup processes, it was easier for her to dismiss the pretend monsters. She also keeps a magic wand under her pillow just in case. Now we just have to figure out how to banish the meanies who look like normal people from her dreams.
I was going to suggest that you look into the work by Elaine Aron about highly sensitive people, but another commenter beat me to it! Her book, “The Highly Sensitive Child” has been hugely helpful in dealing with my preschool daughter.
davis ann says
I’ve had nightmares my whole life. I got them frequently as a kid, and images from those dreams can still haunt me. I’ve learned my triggers, though, so I just try to pay attention and avoid them. I think I started seeing fear as a kind of spiritual tool that the enemy uses when I was about 15. That probably sounds strange and hokey, but it helped me to think of it that way- and then to remember that God is powerful, and that the name of Jesus is powerful- way more powerful than any tool of the enemy. I love praying Proverbs 4:8 when I’m anxious before I go to bed- “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” I hope that that’s helpful to someone… Fear is a terrible place to be, but there is such peace and safety when you make the Lord your Refuge.
Caitlin Canane says
Thank you for sharing this post. My son hasn’t suffered night terrors like Will but we have been woken up at night to screams and it is unsettling to know you can’t help them in their dream.
I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to read everyone’s comments but as I sit in my living room watching The Incredibles for family movie night I saw the scene when Mr Incredible gets caught by “sticky things” and it immediately made me think of your Will (like we were personal friends). Has he seen the Incredibles? Could this very small scene in the movie been some of the inspiration for his sticky creature nightmare? Obviously you have a great handle on how to deal with it and focus on triggers he may have but if you are wondering where the sticky images came from I just wanted to suggest that observation for you. I know my son loves the Incredibles. Have a great night and hope you’re feeling better. Food poisoning stinks!
Thank you so much for sharing this.
I had a recurring dream from aged 3 till puberty. I was strapped onto a big wheel that went round and round like a Ferris wheel. There was a man in a black full length trenchcoat controlling the wheel from a lectern and he kept laughing. He never spoke but I knew I was strapped to a wheel of death and the more it turned the closer I got to dying. I feel sad that as a 3 year old my brain could come up with something so horrific. In the end I just grew out of it. I’m so glad Will’s nightmares have improved so much!
Amanda C. says
Hi Katie – I’m a licensed mental health professional (in Minnesota) and just wanted to tell you that I think what you are doing is great. Keep up the good work! Having a safe space for your kiddo to return to time and time again (your home/your family) is such good medicine. And it sounds like your family does a wonderful job of creating space for him to freely talk about and process his emotions. He is a fortunate boy.
Nope. He hasn’t seen it yet.
xo – kb
Rachel @ A Mother Far from Home says
So glad things have resolved for him!
If it’s a room issue, sometimes having a major prayer session, anointing the room, and asking Jesus to send His Holy Spirit works. I’ve slept in some rooms that gave me total nightmares and only after those prayers did it resolve. Of course this isn’t always the cause of nightmares – duh – but it’s something to try if you’re at the end of your rope!
Rebekah C says
My 3.75 yr old has had night terrors for the past 2 years. He’s finally outgrowing them, but I wanted to let you know that you’re not alone! Before he outgrew his naps, a missed nap was almost certainly a guarantee that he would have a terror that night……sometimes more than 1 terror. Some other triggers for him were sugary desserts of any kind (hence our elimination of sweets after 3pm) and/or a particularly lengthy tantrum/negative interaction with us.
My son has had some health issues, but I noticed that since he had his adenoids removed, he hasn’t had a single night terror. I don’t think that’s the case for most kids, and it’s probably just a coincidence, but perhaps have your pediatrician check out his ears/nose/throat.
I don’t wish night terrors on anyone. They are so scary to watch as a parent since we are helpless.
Rebekah C says
Thank you for saying what I was thinking.
Thank you for writing this post. We have had a few of these experiences and they have terrified me and broke my heart for my baby girl. I have noticed that when my daughter had these she had sensory overload. Thankful for happy endings!
I always appreciate some of your more random posts. (Like frenulums…needed that info and didn’t even know it!) I have a lot of experience with night terrors. I concur, it is terrifiying and so hard to watch a child experience. We still deal with them, but to add to your things that help….making sure a child isn’t too hot or cold while they sleep. We also had a lot of sucess having our sons tonsils removed. I suspect he wasn’t getting into a good REM cycle because he had sleep apnea.
All that said, that is the more sciency approach isn’t it. On the spiritual side…we pray with our kids in there room when there are problems. We also blessed and dedicated our house.
Thanks again for talking about an unusal thing.
Oh! and while people are suggesting books, I can’t help but suggest, “The Child Whisperer” by Carol Tuttle. Where you have all boys….and they are probably all different…I promise it will be so helpful.
Christy Bryan says
Just read this post. Wanted to say my son had a similar experience, and like you say Will is, my Sawyer is the no shenanigans and is pretty realistic about things like the moon. My husband was the same way and explained to me that he has such a realistic view on life that he tends to worry more and those bad dreams are a product of that, if that makes sense? We just try to do our prayers before Sawyer goes to bed and the last subjects we talk about are his favorite things to do and places that make him happy so that’s on his mind when he goes to sleep. But yes, very scary when you can’t help them :(.
I was looking through my “on this day” stuff on Facebook today, and saw that it was three years ago this week that my son (now 4) started having night terrors. I am so lucky that I know people who also dealt with them, so that we knew what was happening from the get-go, because they are awful. I’m glad to hear that Will is doing better. I hope the nightmares start to ease up for him, they’re the worst. Thanks, as always, for sharing something that I know it’s hard to put out there.
I am 34 and I still have nightmares. I have had them my whole life, and my night terrors returned when I had my son 5 years ago. They have calmed down now, but there was a time when I was feeling super zombie-like. I still talk in my sleep, but I don’t scream nearly as much 🙂
My kiddo is 5 now and has nightmares and recurring nightmares. We use a “monster spray” of essential oils (lavender, cedarwood, juniper berry, and water) to spray his closet and around his bed each night. We also use a color changing nightlight at the recommendation of his pediatrician. Both of these tools and a nightly ritual have helped calm the frequency of the nightmares and night terrors.
Good luck to you and Will!
Hey! I just wanted to say thank you for posting! I have benefited a lot over the years from stuff you have shared that I might not have thought was relevant to me at the time, then months later I remember seeing something you shared and I come back and dig it up and it’s super helpful. Like all your posts about the boys and the tongue and lip ties and the nursing pain. I skimmed those at the time, then a couple years later our girl was born tied as could be (lip and tongue) and I came back here first for those posts that you had written and it encouraged and helped me a lot. Now this post is perfect because our baby is 4 months old and my husband keeps her during the day and has been describing to me this exact scenario about once a week when she naps. She will look awake and be screaming bloody murder and nothing helps her snap out of it until she is awake on her own. Then she is happy as can be. It’s honestly been freaking both of us out trying to figure out what was wrong! I’m going to assume she might be dealing with some night terrors as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if she grows out of them and ends up with nightmares because my husband and I both regularly get nightmares and his are pretty intense. Thank you for sharing what is working for you. That gives me some hope that this won’t last forever.
Hang in there mama! Night terrors are always scarier to us than them and it sounds like that is exactly what your little one is going through 🙂
xo – kb
Rob Lane says
I would like to try to help adults and their children with on going nightmares. As a child I suffered from endless horrible dreams and got relief from a very kind and well “Magical” Uncle. Well at least us kids always thought that. 😉 But he performed a fake “ritual” and it worked. The monsters left!
I feel bad for any child that is going through what I did.
I am a Ordained Minister and want to help. [email protected]