Night terrors are not unusual in young children, but they can be very unnerving for parents. Night terrors are often related to a disruption in the normal sleep and dream cycle and stem from stressful or anxiety provoking experiences for the child. When children are overwhelmed or over-stimulated emotionally during the day and have not had a chance to process their feelings, these feelings seek escape and may express themselves at night.
Remaining calm and being near the child to keep him/her safe is most important. Light touches and a gentle, soothing voice also provides reassurance so that as the child comes out of this state, he/she recognizes a familiar surrounding. This kind of atmosphere and comfortable space helps the child recuperate more quickly and move back into a more peaceful slumber.
To reduce the likelihood of night terrors, it is important to try to develop and maintain a relaxing, comforting night time ritual. Allowing for some time to settle in after a long, eventful day - particularly if it was difficult, stressful, or extremely hectic - gives the child (and the parent, for that matter) a space to process feelings before going to bed. If there is something particularly stressful going on, a warm bath, a nice bedtime story, or a quiet talk snuggled up together goes a long way to calming anxiety and overwhelming feelings.