Do you feel helpless, when your child cries incessantly over a bad dream he had and no reassurance seems to help him/her in the middle of the night, when your tired head is short of ideas too?
While nightmares are common in children of all ages, by the age of 6 years children have a basic understanding of the difference between reality and fiction. However, after your child had had a bad dream, comfort, reassurance and lending a ear are the best ways to help a child relax and get back to sleep.
An occasional nightmare is nothing to worry about. But if your child is experiencing it frequently, here are a ways to help prevent it and get a good night’s sleep.
Understand your child’s feelings.
Though the exact reason for nightmares is not always clear and completely preventable, understanding what makes your child anxious might offer helpful solutions. Don’t laugh it off or make fun of your child’s feelings. An emotional stress of parent’s separation, bully at school, a stranger or fear of the unknown can trigger a bad dream. So be a good listener, as solution mostly lies in understanding the problem.
Having a routine is not just for toddlers and infants. A routine makes a child safer and the environment more predictable. Reading before bed, tucking your child with a good night kiss or a bath, are bedtime rituals that help your child to relax and sleep better.
Safe and cozy environment.
A soft light or hanging a dream catcher can greatly help your child to feel safe. Holding objects like teddy bear or a superhero figure can make him/her feel secure and also helps your child in going back to sleep. Make him/her feel comfortable, so that they sleep through the night with right temperature, good bed and blanket in a noise free room.
Teach coping skills
Help your child conquer his fears, like monster, darkness or stranger. Talk to your child, understand their fears and offer solutions that can help them be brave. Reading stories of children who were brave can be helpful. Play with him/her in the dark, so that he/she knows that everything is just the same with or without the light. Encourage your child to challenge his/her fears and help him/her become more confident.
Watch shows with happy endings
Some scary and unhappy ending shows or videos can also make your child anxious. Watching good shows, reading happy stories, telling moral stories can help them conquer this anxiety.
Reiterating the difference between reality and fantasy
The line between reality and fantasy can sometimes be blurred. Help them distinguish by saying that dreams are fiction and different from reality.
From the vantage point of an adult, nightmares seems like a funny and irrational experience, but they really bother young children. Understanding and helping them conquer it will build their confidence and motivate them.