Night Terrors in Foster Children

A traumatic accident occurred last month that resulted in a friend drowning while vacationing in Tahiti. His funeral, 2 weeks later, was emotional for me and his numerous friends.

We traveled to Houston for the funeral, but before going home, we took a family outing to the Kemah Boardwalk, a restaurant smorgasbord accompanied by a small amusement park. After a sad event, I needed to see the smiles of my children.

At one point, with his petite hand outstretched with a small cracker, Stinkpot intently attempted to get close enough to a bird to feed it. When suddenly, in a flash, a seagull swooped down from above and snatched the cracker from our little boy’s hand, startling him. Stinkpot joined in our laughter.

After hours of fun, our Stinkpot quickly fell to sleep on the ride home. Then, after sleeping for 30 minutes, suddenly, he jerked awake as he yelled out, “Get away, birds!!!” Unbeknownst to us, our little boy had been traumatized!

Fortunately, Stinkpot didn’t have any other nightmares.

Night Terrors and our Foster Child

This wasn’t the case for our Blondie.  At 2 years old, she was excessively clingy and seemed to suffer from separation anxiety.  The first night was the worst with the wailing cries wanting someone she knew.  I wish I could say that it got better over the 3 months she stayed with us. It didn’t.

Each night after putting her to bed, before midnight, we heard her. Crying and screaming, running through the house, waking everyone. This occurred every single night. For three months!


Symptoms of Night Terrors

Blondie exhibited the typical symptoms of night terrors. According to Dr. Alan Greene, night terrors can occur in up to 15% of toddlers and preschoolers and are different than nightmares. Symptoms include:

  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Appearing to be awake
  • Running through the house disoriented
  • Occurs during the first 90 minutes of sleep

Coping with Night Terrors

  • Don’t awaken the child
  • Rock and hold the child to comfort
  • Say encouraging words such as: “I’m here.” and “You’re safe.”

Preventing Night Terrors

  • Ensure that your child is getting enough sleep
  • Maintain a consistent, calming bedtime routine
  • Note the time night terrors usually begin and wake the child a few minutes before
  • Keep a diary to see if you can determine a particular “trigger”

Sadly, I didn’t know about the techniques you can use to help prevent the night terrors.

Have you ever had a foster child that experienced night terrors???  What did you do?