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How to Deal With Your Child's Nightmares

Update Date: Oct 15, 2012 07:28 AM EDT
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Having a nightmare is certainly not a good experience- neither for an adult, nor for a child. A nightmare can get us extremely scared or worried while asleep and make us wake up wake up in the middle of the night.

While for an adult, having a nightmare might not be very scary since an adult can easily convince him/herself that it was just a dream, the case is not the same with kids. Children do not easily understand that a nightmare is just a dream and not reality.

There are ways to ease children's fears and possibly prevent bad dreams, says an expert.

Dr. Tom Jackson, a California psychiatrist who specializes in treating sleep problems in children, said in a news release that one should not ignore a child's nightmare-related cries in the middle of the night and should attend the child immediately.

In case you feel angry or frustrated, you must simply wait for a few moments till you calm yourself down, before attending the child. The idea is that at that moment, the child should not feel any negative vibes from you. In a situation like that, the child needs to be comforted and told that the nightmare was just a dream and not reality, says Jackson.

The child, at this time needs to be reassured by cuddling, gently stroking the child's head or back, and comforting words. The parent or the care giver should listen to the child's fears with empathy, and understand that those fears are real and should not be discounted.

The child should be encouraged to take charge of the dream by simply suggesting him/her to imagine the nightmare ending in a happy way.

Jackson said that the best solution to this problem is to prevent the nightmares, and there are many ways to do this.

Prevention of nightmares can be done by making bedtime a comfortable experience for the child. The child could have a bath before bed, drink a mug of warm herbal, caffeine-free tea, the parent could read out to the child before bed; give him/her a gentle massage or simply tucking in the child with hugs and kisses.

In case a child suffers nightmares frequently, the parent can talk to the child during the day and try finding out the cause for the underlying fears behind the dreams and could try to resolve those fears, Jackson suggests.

Also, it may help to analyze your child's daily routine to determine if there is anything happening at home or at school or elsewhere that could be causing nightmares. Monitoring the television shows and video games played by the child could also be a good idea. In spite of you having taken all the necessary steps, if the nightmares continue, you may want to discuss the problem with your child's doctor, Jackson says.

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