Kids are full of imagination and fantasies and hence, at this tender age, they are prone to frequent nightmares. Waking up to your kids screaming in fear, after a nightmare they just had, surely makes you worry.
Nightmares have no specific, proven reasons for the occurrence. Still, there could be a few factors that feed them. You definitely want to know what you could do about it and here are a few tips.
1. Comfort them, make them feel secure
Just after a thunderous nightmare, on waking up, children are exposed to reality in a split second. At this point, they seek safety and comfort from you. Hence, the first thing you do is make them feel completely safe and try to calm them down. Embrace them. While they are near you, pat them gently to reassure that you are with them and the threat is completely gone. Talk to them gently and put them to sleep.
2. Twist the end, to a good one
They might want to tell you about what all happened in the dream. Be it at the same time or the next day, make sure you pay attention to every detail they say. Since the bad dream was left incomplete, you can turn the story around in your favor and assure them of a happy ending. This can take away all the negative feelings out of that nightmare. Your child will be ready for a peaceful sleep.
3. Observe carefully
If the nightmares repeat frequently, see if the matter of concern is similar in many of them. If it is so, you might want to look into what your child is being exposed to throughout the day. Could it be some scary movies, or some scary story books, videos or TV programmes? It’s likely that you might find some connection. Take immediate steps to limit or restrict access to such content. It could even be their peers in the school or neighborhood discussing stuff while playing. Observe carefully.
4. Tackle the phobias
It might be possible that there could be some phobias that your children have developed that bother them during the nights. If you already know them, try reducing their intensity by exposing them to the phobias in limits. Eg. if your children are scared of the dark or being alone, you could expose them to these situations it is a fun way for very short intervals. This would reduce the anxiety. In case of extreme phobias, a therapist could be of best help.
5. Control the surroundings
Keep your children’s favorite stuff around them while sleeping. It could be their favorite stuffed toys, their favorite blanket, etc. As soon as they wake up in horror, the sight of the things that they love could comfort them. Also, keeping a dim night lamp on could be of greatly beneficial in reducing the fear.
6. Make sure they go to sleep in a positive mood
Be it a bedtime story, or any TV programme they watch or the people they meet just before going to sleep. Having a happy and calm mind just before sleeping can be very critical in preventing the occurrence of nightmares. So choose their bedtime stories and other interactions such that they ensure a healthy, positive mood.
7. Teach them to be strong and independent
They are your children and you might feel like sitting with them the entire night, comforting and caressing them. But, be very careful while you do that. The way you treat them during this time, your actions, your words, are all going to shape them. Your actions and words should comfort them but at the same time, make your child braver and more independent. They should learn to be able to handle such nightmares on their own after a certain period of time and we have to act accordingly.
Nightmares are very normal and pretty common for all kiddos. In fact, they are a sign that your child is quite imaginative and creative. These fresh little minds are vulnerable and as parents, it lies in your hands how you shape them. Preventing a nightmare cannot be assured. But, reducing its frequency and intensity and teaching our kids to combat it is totally in our hand. All the best!