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Is the Child Having a Nightmare or Night Terror?

I learned recently about the difference between a nightmare and a night terror, as I put together a workshop on "Anxieties and Fears in Children".  One out of every four children between the ages of 3 and 8 experience either night terrors or night‑mares. Both of these situations can be unnerving, but are generally short‑lived.

Night terrors generally occur within an hour of falling asleep.  The child awakens suddenly from a state of deep sleep in a state of panic.  He or she may scream, sit up in bed, breathe quickly, and stare "glassy eyed."  The child also may seem confused, disoriented, and incoherent.  Each episode can last from 5 to 30 minutes.  A child who experiences night terrors is not aware of any scary thoughts or dreams and is usually able to go back to sleep quickly.  In the morning, he or she usually doesn't remember waking at all.  Night terrors may occur for several years.  Generally they go away with time and are not an indication of any underlying emotional problems.

Nightmares generally occur in the early morning hours.  Children who experience nightmares can often recall the vivid details of their scary dream and may have difficulty going back to sleep.  Nightmares will often center on a specific problem or life event that is troubling the child.  Parents can help by remaining calm and hold the child close and talk in a soft soothing voice to comfort and reassure the child.  If possible, the parent or teacher should stay close by until he or she falls asleep.  Calm, consistent handling of nightmares or terrors will help the child feel safe and secure.

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What are your Strengths Dealing with Children’s Behaviors?

Just think, children spend up to 12,000 hours+ in their first five years in group childcare with a possible another 1,500 hours in before-school care, after-school care and vacation care.  By not being at home, it is up to you as teachers to teach the missed opportunities and for the children to master those skills.

Now that you have the children for such a length of time, then you have those special talents to work and deal with a variety of children behaviors!  What special skills do you have that have made you successful?  Here are some strengths shared by teachers:
  • being able to connect with the children and getting on their level.
  • managing a classroom and building and maintaining a warm, successful learning classroom environment  
  • listening and respecting children and developing creative plans and activities
  • doing hands-on activities with the children
  • having strong presentation skills
  • loving teaching and learning how to adapt
  • being organized and finding fun ways
  • ability to relate to the child
  • being flexible and compassionate in teaching the child
  • being patient
  • showing perseverance
  • doing well-planned lessons
  • communicating with other teachers, parents, and children
  • adapting a lesson at any time
  • knowing the objectives in a lesson plan
  • using the natural skills
  • knowing how to assess the child
  • being a positive role model for the children
  • bringing fun and excitement into the classroom
  • to never stop smiling
  • to bring the "real world" into the classroom
  • working one-on-one
  • to use voice quality and discipline correctly
  • to have confidence
  • to manage the classroom
*The more you can provide experiences that interest the children, the more likely they are to join in and the more they will enjoy the activity!

*Never forget that ALL children need to know you care about them and that they can contribute in a positive way!!

About Children’s Behaviors

As you can imagine, behavior problems in children can range from the obvious of:  hitting, pushing, yelling, fighting with peers, difficulty changing from one activity to another, sleeping problems, excessive energy levels, being unable to sit still and focus, refusal to partake in normal childhood experiences or play, picky eaters, frequent tantrums, extreme sensitivities and excessive fears.

When children react with aggression towards what was seemingly a simple request the underlying principle may be one of frustration.  If tasks they could accomplish yesterday can't be done today, they become angry.  If the tasks become more difficult or more restrictions are applied, they may react with anger.   Sometimes subtle actions like not eating their food or bedwetting may be their response.  Sometimes more violent actions become a way of controlling the situation.                                                                                *It becomes clear that even if the children can't communicate their frustration,    they can act out the frustration and achieve attention!  

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