Nightmares are not pleasant, but we have them sometimes. Perhaps something was on our mind before going to bed, or we remembered a scene from a scary movie. Whatever the cause, nightmares are only our imagination. However, they can seem very real for children.
It can be harder for children to cope after having one. Nightmares can be traumatizing and make it difficult to go back to sleep. And in some cases, the line between reality and nightmare can be blurry for children right after they wake up.
Here are a few ways to help your child cope with having nightmares, and how to prevent them:
As parents, we are the safety nets for our children. The first thing your child does after having a nightmare is run to us in the middle of the night. At this point, your child needs to be reassured that the nightmare is over and they are safe.
Turn on the lights and give your child a hug. Give them a comfortable, familiar feeling they can hold onto, and speak to your child in a soft voice. Reassuring them that can always come to you to feel safe will help them to better cope with nightmares by themselves in the future.
It’s never fun to be woken up in the middle of the night but it’s important to remember that your child was woken up by something much worse in their mind. No matter how nonsensical it may be to us, it was real to them.
Help them face the fear
Facing the fear of a nightmare can be a difficult ordeal for your child, but they can manage it with your support. Listen to what the nightmare was about and ask question about what scared them. The case might be that they are afraid of something in real life, and the thought of it leaked into their nightmare. That’s when parents come to the rescue.
Rationalize the fear with your child to draw the line between imagination and reality. Be careful not to discount their fear though. Emotions should not be judged, especially by parents. Instead, let your children know it’s alright to feel scared and you are there to face the fear with them. You and your child can then reflect on it when the battle is won.
Create a safe sleeping space for them
Even if your child realizes the nightmare is not real and they can face their fears, a nightmare is still not an experience they will look forward to. The idea of bedtime leads to the possibility of a nightmare in your child’s mind, especially in the aftermath of a previous one.
Find a way to light their room bright enough for them to see everything, but not too bright that it keeps them up. Each night before bedtime, walk around your child’s room with them to look under the bed and in the closet. That will show your child that there are no monsters there.
Find the cause of their nightmares with them
Discovering the behavior, thought or food item that causes your child’s nightmares will not only prevent nightmares from terrorizing your child again, but will also further divide imagination from reality. Many parent blogs and forums online have personal stories like yours where parents have found what caused their child’s nightmares. Do some homework and you may discover a solution.
How Parker-Chase Helps Children with Nightmares
At Parker-Chase Preschools, creating a natural and comforting environment for children is important to us. We dedicate ourselves to the emotional growth and well-being of each of our students, and having a prepared environment where children feel safe is crucial. If one of our students has a nightmare during naptime, we respond quickly to notify the parents and assist the child in coping.