18 answers

2 1/2 Year Old Having Night Terrors

My husband travels throughout the year for weeklong trips, and then for longer duration of time in the summer. Lately, my 2 1/2 year-old daughter has begun having "night terrors" in his absence. She is always very attached to me, but she becomes crankier throughout the day and wakes up a lot at night, almost hysterical...when my husband is away. I understand why this might be happening, but I wonder if anyone else has dealt with this and has any suggestions of how best to handle it?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow...first of all, thank you to everyone who posted advice! It felt so supportive to have that feedback. My daughter (knock on wood) did not have a night terror last night, and hopefully tonight will be the same. My husband has called faithfully every night and let her know he had got her a special "purple present" (her request) and she is excited about that...I love the ideas of giving her something of my husband's to cuddle with or have near her when she sleeps. I have also kept a very consistent schedule every morning and night which seems to really help her feel more secure.

I had never thought of the fact that she might have to go to the bathroom. She isn't potty trained yet, but does go inconsistently during the day. That is a thought.

It was helpful to hear I'm not alone...thank you so much!

Featured Answers

I would say to have him call you or you call him and let her talk to her daddy so she can hear his voice. Maybe that will help her a little and have him tell her that daddy will be home as soon as he can. Have him sing her a lullaby or her favorite song to help soothe her before bed. Try not to give her a lot to drink at night before bed either.

More Answers

My son began having night terrors at about that age.

Try gently waking your daughter about 15-20 minutes before the night terror typically occurs. If you google "night terror treatment" you'll find many articles discussing this.

We were able to offset our son's night terrors by doing this - we'd wake him just before we went to bed - which was hard to do because he would be soundly asleep at this point. We roused him just enough to elicit a response - sometimes we had to help him sit up in bed just to get a mumble out of him. It worked, without fail, though.

Best of luck!

Hi! My son has had night terrors as well. I have read the responses and agree, when overly tired, he had them more. I could tell (sometimes) when he was getting ready to have one, he would be restless, tossing and turning in bed. I would turn the light on in the room and lightly wake him up. I tried a small glass of water too. He would go back to sleep, most generally without any terrors. Hang in there, she hopefully will grow out soon!
Best of luck!

My 20-month old doesn't have night terrors, but she does react to my husband's absence. He is a pilot and he is gone sometimes 4-5 days a week (mostly 4 days a week). By day 3 she is crankier, more clingy, wakes up at night, and needs a lot more affection and care. I stay very upbeat about his absence when I'm around her (because it gets hard for me too) and speak of him being home in a few days and how he will give her "big hugs and kisses". I let her speak with him on the phone and we send pics back and forth. It seems to help when she gets to speak with him. And now she tells me that "Daddy home, I give big hug and big kiss". And the day he is coming home, I repeat "daddy is coming home today" etc etc. and she squeals with delight and runs around the house. I think making his absence not seem so "dismal" may help your girl.

I had night terrors as a young child and then had odd sleep walking/vomiting during a portion of my pre-puberty years. There was no diagnosis and I outgrew both. For the record, I had two loving parents, one a stay-at-home mom and a dad that worked regular 9-5 hrs. I had two older siblings that also cared for me.

My point is that you are just being hard on yourself by making yourself feeling guilty about your husband's periodic absence. The night terrors would most likely occur regardless. There is no explanation for them and they simply go away with time.

Now, if she is showing signs of stress like losing hair, banging her head, or something along those lines, then maybe she see a child psychologist. If not, all you can do is comfort her when they occur.

Something else you may want to consider is that when your husband is gone and you temporarily become a "single" mom, you will have more stress which in turn makes you more sensitive to your daughter's crankiness. So, inadvertently you believe her attitude change is due to your husband's absence and really you are more exhausted and less tolerant. Just a thought.

Hi S.,

My oldest son, who is 9, has had night terrors off and on for the past 3 yrs, and it always comes when he is stressed out about something. He starts screaming like the devil is after him, and often runs out into the hallway. They are scary to watch, but they pass quickly and my son does not remember them the next day. You are right in connecting this to your husband's trips. It's hard for a 2 yr old to truly comprehend what is happening when Daddy leaves for a long time. When it happens, the best thing to do is to go in and comfort her until she calms down. You don't have to talk, because she is still asleep really. A loving hug has always done the trick for us, and then we lead him back into his room and into bed.
Maybe you could put a special photo of her and Daddy together next to her bed, and tell her that Daddy will be watching over her while she sleeps. Another idea is, if possible, have your husband call home around bedtime to say a quick goodnight, or have him read a short story to her over the phone. Hope this helps! Good luck!

When my now 3 year old daughter was that age, she went through a period of night terrors. They were pretty draining on the rest of us. We tried something called "special play time" where I would spend about 10-20 minutes in interactive play with her, on her bed right before putting her down for the night. The object is to let her lead the play (choose something she likes), and gently speak encouraging words to her while you're playing ("I like spending time with you", "you are playing so nicely", "Mommy loves you", etc) to help her feel secure. After we did this for about a week, (and also during the day), the night terrors went away. Hope this helps!

Well I can tell you they are scary. My daughter is now 10 and has out grown the night terrors but she use to go crazy. Jump up out of bed and run down 17 stairs. I was so scared that she would fall down them. I could not calm her down and if you try to calm her down in a negative way that never works. Just hold her and rock her or something that sooths her is the best thing to do. The good thing is they do out grow it. The thing I found out is the terrors are worse if they have less sleep. Give her a small nap during the day. The terrors will be a lot better if she gets some more sleep. The less sleep the worse they are. My daughter even though she is 10 almost 11 she still has to have the required or more sleep because then she still talks in her sleep. I have even seen her get out of bed and say things that don't make any sence and then goes and gets back in bed. She does not do that when she has plenty of sleep.

I would say to have him call you or you call him and let her talk to her daddy so she can hear his voice. Maybe that will help her a little and have him tell her that daddy will be home as soon as he can. Have him sing her a lullaby or her favorite song to help soothe her before bed. Try not to give her a lot to drink at night before bed either.

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