Senior Veteran (female)
Join Date: Nov 2003
Re: my 4 year old is having night terrors....
You're not going to like the first part of this, I promise. But, part of me is screeming that she may have been molested. The whole grabbing her privates and then wetting herself is not normal, IMO. I was molested and know the terrors that come with. Is it possible that she was molested? It may have been at a friends house, by a friends older sibling, someone who's in your house regularly, etc.? If this is a possibility, first of all, don't blame yourself because they thrive by fitting in and appearing overly normal....but something needs to be looked into.
Does she have any fears in waking life of a certain person or being left in a certain situation that doesn't seem to make sense to you? Just start paying close attention. Another sign is an adult who is overly friendly w/ your daughter, tickles her a lot, near the crotch, brings gifts, etc.
Now, for the night terrors themselves. Regardless of what's causing them, it's obvious that she's in distress. I am positive that she is not truly awake when you are holding her. That's why many people who sleep walk appear awake, their eyes are open and their brain is out to lunch. I do this w/ my narcolepsy. It's called automatic behavior and happens in the day. I interact w/ people but will have no recollection because my brain is sleeping.
What has worked with my children is to talk to them when they're awake about their nightmares and give them something to fight back with. For instance, my 9 year old has helped me raise wolves and loves dinosaurs. So, when he's having a bad spell, I make sure he has Timer (our wolf who passed away) and a big T-Rex in his pj pockets. Now, they're there to fight back any bad dreams. He goes into his dreams armed and ready to fight and has the belief that he will win.
I know is sounds weird, but when it's in the sub-conscious, they'll use it to help them. I've seen it work many times for my son. I've also used this with my nephew who would wake up every night sobbing. He couldn't recall his dreams, so I "packed' his pocket w/ another wolf and T-rex, just like my son's and told him how to use them. I told him that any time something in a dream scares you, the wolf and dinosaur will know it, because they're by your heart and they'll come to your side and fight the bad guys. He hasn't woke up sobbing again.....he has however woke up grinning in the morning to tell his auntie about the fight last night! LOL
You may want to try this with something your daughter really likes or feels safe with. Also, if you have a dog, let it sleep in her room and tell her how scared bad guys are of dogs because doggies can see their hearts and scare them away. I feel for my oldest dog, because now she has to go to bed when my son does and once he's asleep, my toddler goes and snatches her to go to bed. She just walks past me and looks at me like, "Thanks, great idea you had.....well, here I go again."
Can you think of any stressors in her life that may have triggered this? Is there stress in the family, a move, a big change (even good ones can be scary, especially for wee ones), just anything....Mom, you're going to have to rack your brain. It may be normal night terrors, because they do come around this age, but it seems extreme to me.
Has she ever been able to relay a dream to you? Does she have the vocabulary to explain it to you? If not, there's something called sand-tray therapy that my counselor used with abused children who did not have the vocabulary or were too afraid to explain what they were afraid of. My friend used this with her son to find out he was molested at four years old. He took a dome, turned it upside down over a little boy and put goblins and monsters around it and said that the boy was scared because he had a secret and was told that the bad people would get him if he told.
From there, they used the secret bear. He could tell the bear things and it could tell his mom, so he never broke the secret, it was the bears fault.
I may be completely in left field, I hope I am. But, these techniques will work even with a child who hasn't been abused but is experiencing some kind of trauma, even just normal childhood trauma.
Please let me know how she's doing and keep trying. I know it's hard to watch your children hurt and not know what to do. If she does know she's having bad dreams, make sure to find something that makes her feel safe and maybe work on a "cue" to wake her from it. Maybe a cool washcloth on her forehead, a certain song that she loves, etc. Also, make sure the t.v. is off or if it must be on, put in a video or dvd that is not scary. Sometimes people will wake partially, only enough to hear bits and pieces of a show that may be scary and will start them into a horrid dream. It's worth a try.
Good luck and I hope you read this tonight so you may get through your night a little easier. You're obviously a very caring mom to try so hard to help your daughter. Again, I apologize if the first bit is offensive or worrisome, but it is unfortunately a very real problem in too many childrens' lives. I just hope this isn't the case. If you find it is, let me know and we'll pick this up on the appropriate board and I'll do what I can to help you. God bless you, Mama and your darling little angel.
If you don't experience anything bad, you'll never appreciate the good when it comes around!!!