Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

Our night disturbed by 7yo’s distressing nightmares-about our being taken away & him going back into care After years the terror remains

Children have night terrors.  Particularly those in the three to six age group.  Not all, just some.  But even so they can be distressing when they happen.

Your child.  Not really awake.  Terrified.  Screaming.  Incapable of recognition of their environment.  Their surroundings.  Those in front of them.  

Usually they sink back into sleep after a few minutes during which their helpless parent is initially forced to wait, not intervening until the first wave of terror has passed, allowing some entrance.  Some interaction during which soothing words can be uttered, gestures offered, relaxation back into deep sleep encouraged.


Our experience, having an adopted child, was that it was easy to interpret night terrors as an extension of the horrors in our children's pasts.

Indeed, until I had read more thoroughly about the phenomena I believed there must be a link.  J, with some experience of paediatric medicine, rightly identified them when they first occurred as the night terrors so often associated with our son's age.

Our son's terrors were short lived.  Happening only occasionally.  Without any particular trigger.

Our daughter has them more often.  As frequent as once a week. 


Our children's nightmares are different.  Yet the terror they display can be barely distinguishable from their night terrors.

We anticipated that our son would have nightmares.  We had been warned by his foster parents about them.  Within the first few days we experienced his terror and disorientation at being woken after he had fallen asleep in the car.

Our little boy had lived with his birth family until he was almost two and half.  Had  been present in a confined, cramped room as his birth parents relationship descended into recrimination, hatred and violence.  He had born witnessed to the damage drugs and alcohol wrought.  Ultimately becoming the object of some of the frustration and hatred of one of his birth parents.  

From his first nights with us our son would talk in his sleep.  Often incomprehensible, but sometimes not.  The dreams that stalked his resting hours forcing themselves forth.

The words are never ones of happiness, fun or relaxation.  At best they are those of consternation.  At worst they denote fear, anxiety, terror.  

When they become particularly severe.  When our son shouts out in his sleep, we have sometimes woken him, providing his disorientated self with physical comfort and soothing words.  

At most other times we sit on the bed and hold his hand or stroke his head.  Hoping that the attention provides some unconscious comfort to chase the nightmare away.

Most distressing are the nights when the nightmares are so severe our son is jerked from sleep and, almost unconsciously runs into our room.  Climbing into bed alongside one of us.  Vaguely aware of his surroundings.  Shaking.  Seeking a primordial comfort, driven by instinct alone.  


Our daughter was removed from her birth family well before she was one year old.  We therefore didn't expect there would be many memories that remained.  Certainly few that would trigger the vivid nightmares experienced by our son. 

Her initial weeks with us included some disturbed nights, but more out of a sense of awaking to the unfamiliar.  Uncertainty about her surroundings causing distress until we could reach her to soothe her back to sleep.

As she settled into our home.  Matured.  Went from being a baby to a toddler.  Now as she begins the transition from toddler to young girl.  Our daughter's night time terrors have increased but with no indication they are linked to the past.

Her nightmares are few and far between.  But they do occur.  And when they happen they follow a strikingly similar pattern.

Our daughter doesn't cry out.  Instead she seeks us out.  Sobbing.  Her terror coming from being alone.  Unable to reach us.  Abandoned.  The first instances teaching us that the closure of the baby gate across her bedroom door way was by necessity a thing of the past.  

And again this fits with what we know of her history.  Of how she would be neglected.  Left alone for long parents as her birth parents became lost themselves in the tentacles of alcohol and drugs.


Then there are the nights when our son's 'nightmares' might be, well, might just be something entirely different.

Like the other night where we found him in the kitchen.  Apparently driven there by a mortal fear that the chocolate in the fridge was 'being eaten by a monster,' thus explaining his appearance in front of said fridge with his hand in the packet of chocolate buttons to be found there.

Our daughter hasn't had that type of nightmare yet.  Knowing her though, it's only a matter of time!