Fantasy and Reality Children Can Not Tell the Difference

Halloween will be celebrated very soon, October 31. During this time of year it’s up to parents, caregivers, friends and family to keep Bogeyman / Boogieman at bay from young children.

Not many people know why we dress up every Halloween and terrify each other. Let me explain, Halloween originates from pagan festivals held annually around the end of October in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Many people believed that during this time, the spirits of the dead would come ‘alive’ and walk among the living. They thought in order to avoid being harmed, it was important to dress up in costumes to “blend in” with the spirits or mimic them.

If your child under 7 years of age is afraid of people wandering the streets dressed as ghosts and goblins.  Do not worry, you are not alone. Up until this age, their brains can not distinguish between fantasy and reality. They have not yet developed Cognitive Developmental reasoning; therefore they can not grasp concrete logic or mentally manipulate information. So if they see a person in costume dressed as a monster, they see a monster not the person.

When your child has experienced Halloween and the outcome of it was frightening and scary for them. The likely result at bedtime will be a nightmare, which are unpleasant and terrifying dreams. Nightmares occur during the second half of a night’s sleep, when REM intervals are longer. (REM known as Rapid Eye Movement because the eyes are rapidly moving beneath closed eyelids.) As soon as your child wakes they can remember and describe the dream, so it is understandable for them to call out for comfort, want to sleep in your room or need an object of affection which makes them feel safe.

 

How do I handle my child’s nightmare?

From personal experience, last year Halloween (October 2011), my husband answered the door to trick or treat children who were dressed up as ghosts and scary monsters. Unfortunately our Daughter was behind him and saw them, she was very frightened and witnessed this just before her bedtime. So you imagine what her night was like! Everyday for the remainder of the week she would run away and hide every time the door bell rang.

 

Nightmares are scary and are very uncomfortable for children, but they preventable. After a nightmare your child may or may not go back to sleep easily depending on their age and how scary the dream was. To help them relax and associate bedtime with safety and comfort, please follow the advice I used for my own daughter:

 

  • 2 Hours before bedtime – Do not let your child watch, read, listen or participate in activities which will disturb them or get them over excited, as this will form the basis for their night’s sleep.
  • Preparation for bed – Ensure your child is comfortable and relaxed, not highly stimulated. Talk about pleasurable and happy topics such as holidays or things they like to do. As part of my bedtime routine with my daughter, I twirl like a fairy and sprinkle magic fairy dust all over her. This reassures her and lets her feel protected against her nightmares.
  • After a nightmare – Listen to what your child has to say when they explain the dream and tell you about the monsters. Acknowledge their fears let them know you believe and trust them. Console and comfort your child, make them feel safe by telling them something like “the monsters have gone away now, they are on holiday.” If necessary check the wardrobe and under the bed, let them know their room is clear and harmless to sleep in.

 

Night Terrors

Night Terrors are very different from Nightmares.  Every child’s experience of a night terror differs, but usually they can not be woken from sleep, they may scream, thrash about, sit bolt up right in bed, sweat, act upset and may not recognise you when trying to comfort them. Do not fret or worry, so long as your child is in a physically safe environment they are not in any danger or harm and will not have any memory of their behaviour the next morning. It is far more frightening to witness, as the parent or care provider, you are unable to help or stop what seems like torment for your child.

Night terrors occur when a child’s sleep transitions from the deepest phase of (non-REM) sleep to lighter (REM) sleep, a phase where dreams occur. Between sleep cycles your child wake’s briefly, then usually self settles and goes back to sleep. The night terror is when their mind is trying to go back to sleep, but part of their mind is trying to wake up, both trying to win.

The reasons or triggers for night terrors can be due to:

  • Over tired
  • Fatigued
  • Illness
  • Reaction to new medication
  • Excitement
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping in a new environment or away from home

How do I handle my child’s night terror?

  • Prior to bed time – Same as the nightmare preparations, ensure your child is relaxed and stress reduced to minimum.
  • Bedtime – Your child should not be over tired, fatigued or have stayed up to late.
  • During/After the night terror – Do not try and wake your child, as it can be distressing for you when they remain in the same state. If you are able to awaken your child, they are likely to be disoriented and confused, therefore taking longer to settle down and go back to sleep.
  • Repetitive night terror – If the night terrors occur frequently and at the same time every night, you may find that waking your child breaks the cycle. This can disrupt their sleep pattern enough to stop the attacks without affecting sleep quality.

For most children, nightmares and night terrors happen only now and then so there is no cause for concern. If you need further help, I encourage you to download my comprehensive guide “The Five Steps To Getting Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night!” You can also contact me.

On Sunday 28 October, 02:00am, clocks go backwards by 1 hour, so we get an extra hours sleep…supposedly. Changing the clocks twice a year, has an affect on us all and can increase our sleep debt. It it especially noticeable in babies, toddlers and young children as they tend to have a structured sleep pattern, going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.

Split The Difference Routine

Many of you have worked extremely hard to get your baby to sleep through the night. Any disruption to baby’s sleep pattern will be temporary and they will adapt to the new time. The best way to handle them is to use the “Split The Difference” routine.

  1. Leave the clocks alone on Saturday night! So it’s not psychologically upsetting for you and your family that a big change is underway. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After your breakfast go around and change the clocks. Everyone will be more relaxed.
  2. Morning / Afternoon Nap – Keep the same napping frequency but adjust it by 30 minutes for 3 days after the time change. For example if morning nap is 9:30am, you adjust this to 9:00am. If an afternoon nap is 1:00pm you adjust this to 12:30pm.
  3. Milk and food – Adjust these accordingly.
  4. Bedtime sleep – Adjust this also by 30 minutes for 3 days after the time change. For example if bedtime sleep is 7:00pm, then put your child to sleep at 6:30pm.
  5. This will mean that your baby is going to bed a little earlier or sooner than the normal wait between sleeps, but again it’s not so much so that it’s going to interfere with their schedule too much. It may take your baby a bit more time to fall asleep as he/she may not be as tired, but in a week’s time he/she will be back on track again.
  6. If you have children over the age of two, you can put a digital clock in the room and put a piece of tape over the minute numerals, so that they can see if it is 6:00pm or 7:00pm, but they cannot see the minutes, which often confuses toddlers. I would just set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30pm, it reads 7:00pm and I would let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that by the end of the week, they would be back on track and sleep until their normal wakeup time.
  7. If you are dealing with a baby, you cannot do that. Do not rush in as soon as you hear your baby waking up, because you do not want to send a message that getting up at 6:00am is acceptable now. So your baby normally wakes at 7:00am, but is now up at 6:00am, you will wait till ten after on the first day, and then twenty after the next, then 6:30am the next day and, by the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the new time and waking up at their usual hour.
  8. On the 4th night, get in line with the new time. So your baby is having morning naps, afternoon naps and bedtime sleep at their usual times.

Please do not worry if your child wakes up at the old time in the morning, it can take up to a week to two weeks to establish a new sleep pattern. After all the hard work you have put in, do not fall back in to bad habits. Such as letting your child sleep in bed with you, giving them a dummy or feeding them milk, this will work in short term but will cause problems in the long term.

I would love to hear your feedback regarding your sleep routine

October is SIDS Awareness Month, it is important to help create widespread exposure about SIDS. As safe baby sleep habits are just as important as healthy sleep habits, detailed in this article are facts about with SIDS facts, risk factors and actions to reduce the risk.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, is the leading cause of death in infants and children age one month to one year. Despite advances in research, the cause of SIDS is still not thoroughly understood. The diagnosis is given to children under one year who die in their sleep without any other known cause. Research shows there is a strong correlation to breathing and oxygen levels during the sleep cycle.

Safe Sleeping

While there is no way to prevent SIDS, there are ways parents can reduce the risk of infant death. Infants who are placed to sleep on their backs are at a much lower risk for SIDS than those placed on their stomachs. Babies sleeping on their backs are in less danger of experiencing restricted air flow.

The crib itself should also be free of anything that might unintentionally obstruct breathing. For instance, stuffed animals and pillows should be left outside of the sleeping environment. Mattresses should be firm and sheets tight. Crib bumpers, while cute, can also pose a risk to your baby.

Your baby’s comfort is also important. Many parents fret over whether their infant is warm enough during sleep and like to pile on blankets that not only pose a danger for restricted oxygen flow, but also make the baby too warm. There are various authorities that state the ideal room temperature for safe sleep is between 18.3 and 21.1 degrees Celsius. In fact, placing a fan in the room may decrease your infant’s risk of SIDS by 72%.[1]

Outside the Crib

There are several other ways you can reduce the risk of sudden infant death as a result of SIDS. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from SIDS. Good prenatal care is also important and may play a role in reducing risk further.

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to have infants that die from SIDS. Even passive smoke exposure can double your infant’s chances of death. The top priority is to quit smoking if at all possible. At the very least, refrain from smoking in your home and car, or anywhere near your infant.

Finally, it is vital that all caregivers be aware of the risk of SIDS and understand the necessities of safe infant sleeping. Relatives and daycare providers should all practice safe sleeping procedures:

  • Baby should sleep on his or her back
  • No smoking in the home, car or immediate area
  • No loose sheets, stuffed animals, pillows or blankets in the crib
  • Keep baby comfortable and not too warm
  • Use a fan in the room if available

 

Following these important tips can significantly reduce your infant’s risk of suffering from SIDS and make your time with your baby a less worrisome experience.