Nightmares can give a bad time to the strongest of us. So imagine how they would affect children. They can get very disturbed, and it is a tough task to quieten them after such experiences.
Here are some ways in which you can help:
1. Comfort your child
If your child wakes up in the middle of the night after a scary dream, calm her down. Stay beside her until she settles back to sleep. It can be difficult for children to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Explain this as well as you can. Until your child is old enough, sleep along with her. Knowing that an adult is close by will give confidence. Listen patiently if she narrates the events. However, do not press her to recollect, as that will put her under pressure. Tell her that everyone has nightmares and these episodes are not real.
2. Reduce factors that cause stress
While you have little control over nightmares and cannot directly prevent them, you can do a lot to ensure that your child is free of stress during the daytime. Nightmares can stem from anxiety experienced when awake. If you find your child is worried during the day, try to understand the cause. Could it be the result of a traumatic event? If yes, then take steps to address the issue. Dreams are often a reflection of the child’s waking hour experiences. Ensure that he does not watch content that depicts violence and horror. Avoid references to monsters to scare your child in order to get him to exhibit good behaviour. This will only add to his fear. Also, implementing a fixed routine in your lifestyle will help reduce stress.
3. Spend time together
Spend at least half an hour every night with your child before she goes to bed. Use this time to tell inspiring stories of courage, discuss the day’s events and experiences, play fun-filled games or listen to happy songs together. Teach her to say her prayers before going to bed. This will give her mental strength.
4. Create a positive atmosphere
Create a feel-good atmosphere in the bedroom. You can do this in many creative ways. Decorate the room with his favourite cartoons. Or, pin up positive thoughts written on paper. Sometimes, children can be afraid of the dark, which could make things worse for them. Have a dim light on while your child sleeps, at least for a few days until he feels confident enough to sleep in the dark.
With these steps, you should be able to control your child’s fears and help her get over nightmares. But if they continue to bother her, it is best to consult a mental health professional, as persistent nightmares are indicative of deeper emotional issues that need to be addressed at the earliest.