Night Terrors?

The past few weeks I have seen some challenging behaviors from Coco. I mentioned the tantrum she had this weekend in a previous post but I chalked it up to typical 3-yr old behavior. She can be grouchy and say no when she means yes just because, but then the next minute she is very compliant. She doesn’t really care what she wears, she eats basically anything, she plays with anyone. Most 3-yr olds have strong feelings about a lot of things but Coco doesn’t really seem to. She loves television and animals but she’s not over the moon about ballet or art class or school or shopping or traveling or swimming. She’s easy-going in a lot of ways which is why I was shocked she threw a tantrum when it was time to leave my job.

I  have also noticed lately that she cries really hard when there’s some sort of injustice or she’s misunderstood. For example, I was brushing her teeth the other night and thought she swallowed the water. We use the local tap water to brush our teeth but we don’t drink it or swallow any it when brushing. I reminded her firmly not to do that and she broke down into hysterical sobs trying to convince me she hadn’t done that. I saw this again a few days later when the yaya accused her of something she hadn’t done. She was hysterical and luckily I knew she was telling the truth and the yaya apologized and she immediately calmed down.

However, four times this week she has cried inconsolably and I can’t pinpoint the reason. Each time she said her leg hurt (and one time she did have a splinter) but the other three there didn’t seem to be anything wrong. She begged for a band-aid or an ice pack and then calmed down. I know it’s not her leg though because tonight she was grabbing her left leg crying out in pain and when I returned with the ice pack she told me to put it on her right leg. No matter, it calmed her down and she went to sleep. But it is worrisome because I don’t know why she’s doing it. Then late last night, hours after she fell asleep, she woke up crying hysterically again and calling my name. I happened to still be awake so I was in her room in seconds to see what was wrong. At first she was crying so hard I couldn’t make out what she was saying but I finally understood her to say she needed a band-aid. I got the band-aid but this time that wasn’t sufficient. I couldn’t comfort her no matter what I tried. She didn’t want to be held, sung to, or covered up with blankets. She didn’t want to or couldn’t explain to me what was wrong. I noticed she never opened her eyes and she didn’t have tears, yet she did seem to be awake since she could say a few words every now and then (like requesting to go to my room). She cried off and on for about 20 minutes until she fell asleep exhausted in my bed. At one point I thought about taking her to the hospital, but my intuition told me it was a psychological pain and not a physical pain.

I wonder if mid-May was a time of grief in her life. You read about kids, even very young kids who you think wouldn’t remember, who display trauma and grief around certain dates. Or maybe she was having a nightmare or night terrors? Or worse, has something awful happened to her at school or some other time when I am not around? The hardest part was that she was not able to articulate to me what was hurting her and she wanted no part of my cuddles or touch. She pushed or kicked me away as she screamed and screamed. After she finally fell asleep I wiped away my tears and dug my Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child book off the shelf and flipped through the contents to see if I could gain some insight to the situation. I wasn’t able to find anything to help with this situation. It did speak of sleep being an issue for kids and maybe she is going through a phase and would benefit from co-sleeping. I can definitely see the value of that but she often thrashes around when she sleeps preventing me from sleeping well. I am not sure this is something we can do when I have to get up and go to work.

One thing I did learn, though not necessarily related, was children her age should have very limited transitions. Going to school and to the grocery store is considered enough for one day. They said all activities and classes should be limited to once a week. I found this so interesting not just because she was in ballet, art, and swimming at one point this spring but it was an aha moment for me in terms of her challenges with transitions. The meltdown she had this weekend? -it was having to do with a transition. And this weekend when we were at L’s house and it was time to go it was evident there also. There were other kids playing at the house and when J and I went upstairs to tell them it was time to go and all four of the other kids immediately got up and headed towards the steps but Coco lingered in the room doing her thing. I had to go in there and retrieve her. I remember being slightly annoyed and embarrassed by it not realizing that this is a normal thing for adopted children.

So though I still don’t know what is causing her shrieks, I am reminded that parenting an adopted child requires constant reading and sharing and research and patience and understanding.

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10 Responses to Night Terrors?

  1. Stefanie says:

    My adopted child is 5 years old and I’ve had the same experiences. She definitely does have growing pains — very common at night her pediatrician said; but she also went through a short bout with some sort of night terrors thing at about Coco’s age. It was awful. She was aggressive and inconsolable until I found the one thing that could snap her out of it was bringing her to see herself in a mirror. I have no idea why that worked, but it would bring her back around to more normal consciousness. She just had a handful of those episodes and they were gone. Hopefully it’s the same for you guys. The growing pains still show up periodically.


    • Joy says:

      a mirror? interesting! thanks for the tip. i will try that next time it appears to be night terrors and not growing pains.

    • Joy says:

      i thought about that too! thanks for the link. definitely going to read it!

      • Joy says:

        and actually that was the first thing i thought of but somehow didn’t remember that when writing the post. however, i do think that’s a strong possibility because she has gotten SO TALL this year and she is extremely active. the one thing the article said though was that a child with growing pains can be consoled with cuddles and that didn’t work for her but i still suspect that is a very likely reason. thanks for the reminder!

    • jessi says:

      Joy- i used to get growing pains so bad that it would keep me awake at night. My mom used to massage my legs and it would help.

  2. Joy says:

    thanks for you comments and support D and Leo. for the past 5 days things have been good –no complaints of leg pain nor any tantrums– so hopefully it was just a phase. keep ya posted.

  3. I feel for you, this must be very hard for you. I had a few similar experiences of my daughter waking up in tears claiming her legs hurts so I had to apply a small bandage out of toilet paper before she would go to sleep.
    To this day I have no idea what the trigger to set this of was but on these occasions it does make parenting an adoptive child hard.
    Some schools of thoughts suggests maybe our daughters are having flashback but cannot explain.
    I do hope this a short phase.

  4. Leo says:

    Lots of hugs and love coming your way Joy. I think you might be onto something about the transitions, and I too was wondering, woah, did something happen at school or with the yaya? I think if that had been the case, you would hear about it from Coco? My little one has had some worse tantrums too lately, just around and ater turning 4, when she had been very easy going in her twos and threes compared to others. I’ve been wondering what’s been going on. OMG, of course, the aha moment! She went to the orphanage and later the children’s home in her first two weeks of life. Oh my… of course. She hadn’t shows any noticeable changes in the first three years of her life. Maybe that part is cathing up to her… woah. Anyway, now that I have had my shoulda had a V8 moment, again, lots of hugs and love to both you and Coco. Leo

Kind words only, please! :)

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