Soothing Night Terrors

How do you foster relationship within yourself and with others? What is your first thought upon waking or before falling asleep at the end of the day? Do you greet yourself with kindness upon waking, taking the time to imagine your upcoming day with curiosity? At the end of the day, do you take time to reflect and celebrate the moments that went well and to mourn and repair those moments that were difficult? How do you greet your loved ones "Good morning" and say "Good night" before they go to bed?   

I have been intentional to take time every morning and night to reflect and ponder these questions surrounding relationships and discovered with some delight and fascination how this practice unfolded in my relationship with my youngest son.   

I remember waking up as a child hearing my Dad downstairs singing, "Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day..." and as I came down the stairs he would greet me with a cheerful smile, "Good morning, sunshine!" Waking to this familiar routine as a child brought a smile to my face and established within me a pattern of greeting I brought forward with my own children, consistently greeting them each with a warm hug saying, "Good morning, sunshine!"   

When my youngest child, Rylan, began crying out at an early age with night terrors, my own internal system became hypervigilant to respond as quickly as possible, trying with the best of intentions to comfort and soothe him. Yet because I felt anxious and tense, my system released stress chemicals and Rylan was not soothed. As his dysregulation increased and was expressed not only in the night, but in the daytime, again my internal system was knocked way off balance as I felt increasingly startled and overwhelmed with stress and confusion, thinking to myself, "Why is this happening? The other kids didn't do this! Have I done something wrong? I don't know what to do!"   

Fortunately, as I desperately searched for resources, I discovered NonViolent Communication and Interpersonal Neurobiology, which provides a refreshing new way to make sense of difficult experiences without making either myself or my son "wrong." 

As I sought support to integrate this new information and way of being, I discovered relationships that are enduring, where I continue to be held with lots of compassionate understanding and resonant empathy for what my internal experience is like not only as a mother, but as the unique person that I am. This is my grounding; when I learn to meet myself with compassion right where I am in the moment, I discover how to stay present with my son and others in a radically new way.   

The natural hormones and neurochemicals that we have in our bodies and brains not only create a sense of balance within us, they also enable us to thrive. Choosing to pause and self-connect, with care and kindness, activates opioids and oxytocin in our brain, which produces a calm and contented state of being and opens access to creativity and possibility within ourselves. 

When we in turn repeatedly greet our children and other loved ones with kindness and warmth, they will experience oxytocin and opioids becoming dominate in their brain and start to greet the world with interest and wonder, rather than with a sense of fear and threat.   

With Rylan I established a ritual when waking him or tucking him in at night. I would take a moment to self-connect to my heart energy, give him a warm embrace, and then gently stroked his forehead, saying, "Blessings of pure love and light to you, Rylan."   

Attachment research highlights the importance of the parent-child relationship in laying down the foundation for how a child will come to approach the world and develop relationships with others in the future. Those moments when parents take time, with their words and actions matching, to show their children how much they are loved, and that their lives hold great meaning and purpose, directly affect a child's ability to form a secure attachment with them.   

I remember experiencing pure awe and wonder when I woke up one morning to feeling my own forehead being gently stroked and hearing Rylan say with tenderness, "Good morning, Mommy, blessings of love and light to you!" 


As our eyes met with love, I in turn reached out, stroking his forehead, saying with joy, "And blessings of pure love and light to you this morning, Rylan!" And we snuggled in the warmth of the covers to imagine our unfolding day together.


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