How to Help a Child Who Is Having Nightmares

Learn how to help a child who is having nightmares in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.

I’m here to talk about how to help your child with nightmares. We all want kids to go to bed and have sweet dreams, but sometimes that’s just not what’s happening. It’s not unusual for kids to have some bad dreams and nightmares, and first what causes them? We don’t really know why they happen, but sometimes it can be a sign of some other stress that’s in your child’s life or unfortunately there may be a time when it’s a response to something traumatic that happened in your child’s life, and they’re actually reliving it in their dreams and nightmares at night. When your child has nightmare, certainly you want to take it seriously, and then you want to respond in the right way according to their age. Now young preschoolers or young children may be able to use their imagination, and their imagination is partly what’s going on, so you can tell them that it’s in their imagination, but then again you might want to use that to your advantage, and to help them feel more in control.

Sometimes that monster spray by the bed or even some devices like a night light will actually help calm and reassure that child that that monster or whatever that scary thing isn’t going to be there at night. If a child wakes up certainly with a bad dream, certainly you want to be available and present for them, reassure them that you’re there to take care of them. It may require some checking, talking about what’s realistic in terms of their fears, and then getting them back to sleep. That brings us to sleep in general, and what can always help is making sure you have a calming pre-sleep routine, and bedtime routine. Setting the stage for a child to have a good night sleep, so have something that’s structured for them, have it predictable for them, have it a calming time for them whether it’s story time or a quiet play time. You may need to teach them some quiet, calming activities such as breathing, talk about a story that you want them to have a good dream about.

Then, certainly if nightmares persist or they seem out of control or like they’re going on too long, and your child is waking up very worried and upset, then you may want to see about getting some help with finding out if there’s something else that’s going on in the child’s life that’s now interfering with their good night sleep.