Recently we have been having problems with our resident pre-schooler…she is having nightmares, which are disturbing for her and for us. She has been an incredibly good sleeper since around 2 months old but now is having difficulty going back to sleep after waking from a nightmare in the middle of the night.
Being a good grandma and blogger…I did some research that I would like to share about children and nightmares.
Children around three years old begin to have fears …nightmares are sometimes the results of these fears and anxiety.Usually these ‘bad’ dreams wake them up during the last half of the night and sometimes it is difficult for them to return to a peaceful sleep.
“The child may dream about danger or a scary situation. Nightmares may involve disturbing themes, images, or figures such as monsters, ghosts, animals, or bad people. Loss of control and fear of injury are common themes”
Reassurance is important…this is a time when a parent will wake with a crying child and will want to go and console him/her and listen to his/her story. Sometimes your child will want to frantically tell you about the nightmare in vivid detail but if they don’t …no need to press them.
In the morning they may want to talk again about their dream and this is a time when you can perhaps create a different ending for the story one that is not so scary…this may help ward off a recurrent dream theme.
Coping strategies can include checking around the child’s room with him /her so they know there is nothing lurking under their beds…monsters are real at this point in their young imaginations.
There are also things that you can do to help your child. Especially with younger children, a security object such as a favorite stuffed animal or a blanket can help a child feel relaxed and safe in bed. Other things that can help are leaving a low nightlight on in your child’s bedroom and teaching him relaxation techniques. Have your child imagine a relaxing scene, such as a being on the beach or watching a sunset, will help him relax after a scary dream. Children can also use their imagination to help them settle down and fall back to sleep. Have your child imagine a different ending to the nightmare, hang a dream catcher over your child’s bed which helps catch the “bad dreams,” or have your child draw pictures of his nightmare that he crumples up and throws away.
Our little one has a magic wand that helps to ward off ’bad dreams’…some nights it works better than others…
Nightmares are real and scary…your presence and a big hug is above all the best reassurance for your little one that all is well especially in the middle of the night!