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Night terrors and school-aged kids

Sleep issues can be very challenging (and often scary) for parents and kids. When your child gets old enough to attend sleepovers, what do you do about night terrors? Learn how to help kids cope and talk to their friends about night terrors.

Girl with night terrors

When kids are very young, night terrors can be baffling and scary for parents. As kids get old enough to understand what’s going on, night terrors present a new set of challenges. Learn more about your child’s night terrors and how you can give your child the tools to cope.

Night terrors vs. bad dreams

A child who has nightmares often wakes up because of it — and afterwards a child usually recalls the nightmare. The child may be crying or distressed. On the other hand, night terrors are rarely remembered and the child stays asleep. Kids probably won’t know that they have night terrors unless someone tells them. Night terrors can be very scary for caretakers — and later on, for peers — because the child experiencing the night terrors appears awake and highly distressed. She might be sitting up, thrashing, panting or shrieking.

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?Dealing with night terrors

Try to stay calm when your child is having night terrors. Because they often happen earlier in the sleep cycle than nightmares, you may be awake when they occur. It’s OK to make soothing noises and to touch your child, but you should not make efforts to wake him up. When the terrors pass, your child will resume normal sleep. While your child won’t remember what happened, you may feel disturbed and scared afterwards. Talk to your child’s doctor about his night terrors. While night terrors aren’t dangerous, your child’s doctor may want to check for other issues that might be disturbing your child’s sleep.

Host sleepovers at your home

When your child wants to have a sleepover, don’t let night terrors get in the way. Try hosting the sleepover at your home. Schedule a time to talk to the parents of any children attending the sleepover. Let them know that your child’s night terrors don’t happen every night, but that they are a possibility. Collaborate with the other parents to find the most tactful way to warn visiting kids that night terrors might occur during the sleepover. The most important thing to convey is that no one involved is in any danger.

Help your child talk about night terrors

Though night terrors often subside after early childhood, some kids and adults will continue to have them. Let your child know that it’s a totally normal condition. Practice calmly talking about it so that your child can let peers know what’s going on. Eventually, your child is going to want to go on overnight trips and attend sleepovers outside of your home. As with any other condition that peers may become aware of, night terrors are simply something your child needs to be able to explain in basic terms. Remind your child to always check in with the adult in charge.

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