Does your child sometimes wake up frightened and crying? Parents often feel completely helpless when it comes to dealing with nightmares. So what should you do? We offer a few tips below.
Nightmares are common in children
Between the ages of 1 and 8, children often have their sleep disturbed by nightmares. Bad dreams usually occur during the paradoxical sleep phase, one of the last before waking up. But although they can be alarming, nightmares are actually a perfectly normal phenomenon. In fact, just like dreams, they are a crucial stage in a child’s development. A genuine safety valve, nightmares allow youngsters to release their anxiety and stress.
Nightmares between the ages of 1 and 3
Very young children can’t yet differentiate between dreams and reality. You can reassure them by comforting them. Encourage them to tell you about what they saw. This helps the images gradually fade from their memory. You should also tell your child that you were scared by the same things too, once upon a time. Finally, there are a few simple tricks to remember. For example, leave a little light switched on after a bad dream. Or give children a special cuddly toy to stop nightmares disturbing their sleep.
Nightmares in children aged 4 and over
At this age, your child knows the difference between dreams and reality. So you can explain that these terrifying creatures don’t actually exist and are completely imaginary. It’s important to soothe children, hold them in your arms and show them that no monster can possibly come into their bedroom. Remind them that you’re just in the room next door to protect them. Even if your child wakes you up in the middle of the night, stay calm and, whatever you do, don’t be cross. The next day, ask them to draw a picture of the creatures they saw in their dreams. Then burn the drawing or tear it up together. When bedtime comes around again, talk about something your child likes. That way, they will drift off to sleep thinking happy thoughts!
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