You are frequently woken up by your 6-year-old child in the middle of the night and face a lot of crying and refusal to go back to sleep.
Nightmares or bad dreams are part of a normal developmental process and common in the age group of 3-6 years.
Reasons for emotional stress due to a separation of parents, anxiety, tiredness or watching something disturbing or scary can trigger nightmares.
While it is not always possible to prevent nightmares or know why it happens, teaching your child how to cope with a bad dream can be a great help because you cannot always be there.
Try to comfort him/her by cuddling, hugging or stroking his/her hair until he/she feels better. If your child insists on coming with you to your bed to sleep back, keep in mind that this might become a usual excuse and wash away all the efforts you had done to stop sharing the bed with your child.
Label reality Vs dream.
Chances are your 6-year-old already know how the difference between the two, but reminding your child that it was only a dream can console him/her. They are likely to remember the bad dream and the incident for a few days. Your constant labeling it as a fantasy will help them to get over it faster, without developing a fear.
Comfort your child.
Try to talk to your child and if he/she is willing to share the dream. But do not force. Show him/her that you understand his/her feelings. Empathize with your child rather than just scolding and saying “Enough crying!” Share your own bad dream and tell them that everyone experiences such dreams. Try to talk to your child about the bad dream during the daytime, next day rather than going on and on about it in the wee hours when both you and your child are exhausted.
Help your child to check the room that there are no monsters.
Lighten up the environment and help your child feel safe again, by pretending to find the monster or looking up the bad guy under the bed. This will assure your child that you understand his/her feelings and the room is back safe now.
Help him/her to go back to sleep.
Your child might want to hold your hand while he/she tries to go back to sleep. But you need to come up with something that they can hold on to even if they wake up again and don’t find you. Try to find a blankie, teddy or night light that your child can find comfort in.
Children have different fears that can make them anxious. A bad movie, fear of the dark or imaginary creatures can come back to haunt your child during the sleep. Talk to them about happy endings and help them conquer their fears, like by playing in the dark can get them over the fear of darkness.