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TherapistJen, LCSW, CPC
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 3391
Experience:  Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
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My child is adopted from Russia. He will be 3 in December,

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My child is adopted from Russia. He will be 3 in December, 2012. Over the last few weeks he has been wakening during the night. He has been screaming and doesn't want anyone to hold him. He appears to be still asleep eventhough we might be speaking to him and have turned on the light. He does not appear to be aware of his surroundings. It can take nearly 10 minutes or more to get him to become aware of where he is.
Hi. Welcome. I am a Licensed Master Social Worker with more than 20 years experience working with individuals and families on a variety of issues.

What your son is experiencing is quite common at this age as their dream life becomes active and they can experience nightmares in vivid detail. You said it perfectly when you said he doesn't want to be held during this time and that is because he is most likely still sleeping. He most likely doesn't even remember these events in the morning. What you can do in those moments which feel very scary is go into his room and gently whisper that everything is okay and give a gently rub his back for just a few seconds. I would let him continue to sleep.

Was there any trauma prior to him being adopted? How old was he when you brought him home to you? If you believe that he could be re-experiencing some earlier trauma then I might suggest touching base with the pediatrician about it.

Just to reassure again that at this age these kind of nightmares are common at this age as fears develop, imagination comes into play and they can describe their dreams.

Here are two articles on nightmares and night terrors for you to look at to see which describes the event.

And one on night terrors.

Please let me know your thoughts but again most likely this is a normal part of his development.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks for your e-mail. We adopted him at 18 months. He was in a Baby Home. He was released by his mother at birth which was by caescarean section. He spent approx 3 weeks in hospital and then to Baby Home. He did not appear to have received any trauma other than the fact that he was placed in the baby home. We have noticed these episodes worse since he started to get a command of the English language. Would this be a issue. Do you think there is any need to have him seen by a child psychologist or it is too early for such intervention.



thanks for the further information. It sounds to me that this is age appropriate for sure and as he gets command of the English language and he develops normal fears that kids have at this age, his nightmares are developing. I am always supportive of what will help to have you as the parent feel better and if that is to have him seen by someone then that is okay. i would start with the pediatrician first and my hunch is that he/she will reassure you that this is common for this age. You are a wonderful parent to be aware of all that he is going through. Read the article on nightmares as i think you will be able to see that he is experiencing what most kids his age experience and like other developmental stages, he will pass through this one.

I do think you will be further reassured with a call to the pediatrician. In my earlier response i included an article on night terrors although I don't believe it to be that as it tends to happen in older kids age 5-6. As he learns about the world and normal fears develop their mind, like ours, while sleeping is quite active thereby giving him some nightmares.

Gentle and quiet reassurance while he is crying can help him to feel safe during those moments. Remember he is most likely sleeping so being calm and gentle with a soft rub on his back can go a long way.
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