Persistent nightmares could mean that your child is feeling stressed or worried about something – like starting preschool or being potty-trained. Help your child to deal with whatever is bothering him and you’ll both sleep tight.
Step 1: Go to your child Go to your child as soon as you hear him calling. Hold him close. Tell him, over and over if necessary and in a reassuring tone of voice, 'Mommy’s here,' or 'Mommy and Daddy are here.'
Step 2: Tread lightly Don’t push him to tell you about the nightmare; he may get upset all over again. But if he wants to talk about it, listen sympathetically.
TIP: Bad dreams are especially scary for kids under five, who can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.
Step 3: Sweep the room If he’s worried about something in his room – a monster in the closet, a dragon under his bed – get rid of the beast by sweeping under the bed and then spritzing the room with a water bottle marked 'Anti-Monster Spray.'
Step 4: Give him something to cuddle with Give him something to cuddle with.
Step 5: Wait until he’s asleep Turn on a nightlight or give your child a flashlight to keep by his side. Once your child is calm, stay with him until he goes back to sleep, or is close to drifting off.
TIP: Don’t offer to sleep alongside him, and don’t invite him into your bed. You’ll just start a bad habit that will become a nightmare for you.
Step 6: Avoid scary images before bedtime To keep the nightmares at bay in the future, don’t expose your child to scary images—before bedtime. Establish a calming and regular bedtime routine.
FACT: Nightmares usually occur during the last third of sleep – known as REM sleep – which is when you're most likely to dream.