Have you ever found that you have just fallen asleep and are awakened by a sobbing child standing by your bedside wanting to climb in with you? There is often the declaration of a monster under the bed. You are tired, but you can’t ignore the fact that your little one has probably just had a really scary nightmare or a bad dream.
According to The Cleveland Clinic, nightmares begin to peak in children between the ages of 3 and 6. They commonly occur in the second half of the night when a child is awakened by the episode and is capable of recalling the dream. This is frightening and confusing.
It is thought that most nightmares happen because of something the child witnessed during the day or saw on TV that was upsetting. What can we, as parents, in preventing nightmares and soothe our child after having one?
Rather than letting your child watch TV before bed, read her a happy story or share a positive experience you had when you were her age. These thoughts and images are likely to be the last thing she remembers before falling asleep.
Be mindful of your child’s anxiety level. Young children experience anxiety just like we do. Some of that is associated with interacting with other children and adults as they enter into school age. If you sense your child is anxious, comfort her with reassurances that things will be alright and that you will always be around to protect her.
Of all the things you choose in life, you don’t get to choose what your nightmares are. You don’t pick them; they pick you. – John Irving
Address trauma. Talk to your child every day to make sure that events in her life have not traumatized her, such as the passing of a grandparent or a favorite pet. Encourage your child to talk through her feelings and get the images out of her head and into words.
Comforting a Child after a Nightmare
I know with my children the urge was to jump into our bed as soon as there was a scary dream that woke one of them up. It might be better to take your child back to her bed and reassure her that the room is safe. Snuggle with her for a bit.
A nightlight is a good idea if your child is simply terrified of the dark after a bad dream.
Give your child a cuddle buddy to sleep with, like her favorite stuffed animal or a blanket.