Having a nightmare can be a surefire indicator that your child is worried about something; they may be anxious or stressed, or maybe reacting to a sense of trauma that’s come about after an event. And knowing this can make a nighttime disturbance very worrying on your part.
After all, nightmares can ruin a child’s entire nighttime routine for that night and the day afterwards. It can prevent them from getting back to sleep, it can cause your own sleep cycle to be disrupted, and then you’ll both feel like total zombies in the morning after! Breakfast will go slowly, and it’ll be hard to get your child off to preschool - they might even fall asleep whilst they’re there, and the thought of this can be another big worry on your mind.
But what should you do when your child has a nightmare?
There’s a lot of things you can do to help your child feel better after a nightmare. Every child tends to react differently to a bad dream, but you can regularly expect tears, being scared of something hiding in their room, and worries about going back to sleep. Combating these reactions is key to helping your child feel safe in their bed again, and allowing them to come up with their own ways to cope with any bad dreams they experience.
What to do if you suspect chronic nightmares:
If you have real concerns over the cause of your child’s nightmares, it’s important to note down your child’s nighttime habits to see how often they experience bad dreams. If they’re frequently waking up because of something they’ve dreamt about, more than 2 or 3 times a week, you may want to talk to a doctor about their experience.
However, sometimes a child can have a nightmare simply because they’ve read a scary book, or seen parts of a scary movie, and they just need a little reminder that none of what they’ve seen is real, nor can it hurt them. Sometimes it’s because they’re really tired, or they’re struggling to sleep due to being overtired, and their subconscious is simply reacting accordingly!
So, try to always take into account what your child has done during the day, and then use methods like these to help your child calm down and get back to sleep.
Talk about the nightmare
Talking is a good way to get out all of your child’s worries; even in the middle of the night, if they can take just 5 minutes to get their feelings out, they’ll feel a lot better. Let your child lead without interjecting too often.
After all, it’s important to keep this kind of talk to only 5 minutes because of how late it can be, but you can always continue talking about it in the morning when daylight makes nightmare monsters seem much less scary! A talk like this simply gets the ball rolling, and helps to remind your child you’re here for them.
Talk about a good dream they can have
Once your child’s told you all about the nightmare they’ve had, counteract it with a good dream they can have. Delve into your own imagination a little, and give them a dream scenario they can drift off back to sleep thinking about.
For example, if they love cats, talk to them about having a dream where they look after cute little kittens and describe the colour and fluffiness of each one to help your child really get into it.
Make sure their bedtime routine is calming
One of the best ways to help your child drift off to sleep without trouble in the world is all to do with their nighttime routine. Before you put them to bed, allowing them to have a little snack to settle their stomach, as well as reading them a fun and happy story, and even just having a 5-minute cuddle to help them relax are all great elements to include in their bedtime routine.
Have a practical way to combat the nightmare
Kids have very vivid imaginations, and that’s why they tend to have nightmares in the first place! But this also works in your favour - having a strong and rich imagination means a little bit of creativity on your part goes a long way.
So get a normal spray bottle and fill it with normal tap water, and then tell your child it’s a monster repellent, and spray it around their room to keep anything nasty out. You could also tell them that one of their teddies is a secret guardian that keeps them safe, or even that you’ve got a magic blanket you can cover them up with to keep all the monsters away!
Trouble sleeping is something children tend to grow out of. And nightmares can be a big reason for that, but there can also be many other reasons behind why your child has trouble sleeping at night. If you’re worried about your child’s nighttime habits, be sure to check out our other article,
to learn about the potential reasons and what to do about them.