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How to Calm a Child Who Is Having a Nightmare

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.

You Will Need

  • A reassuring demeanor
  • u201cAnti-Monster Sprayu201d
  • A comforting toy or object
  • A nightlight or flashlight
  • A calming bedtime ritual

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