Nightmares: Why they happen and what to do about them (ages 5 to 8)

Nightmares: Why they happen and what to do about them (ages 5 to 8)

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How to know if it's a nightmare

If your child wakes up crying or fearful and has trouble getting back to sleep, chances are she's had a nightmare. These scary episodes usually happen during the second half of the night, when dreaming is most likely to occur. Your child will probably remember her bad dream the next day and may continue to be bothered by it.

Nightmares shouldn't be confused with night terrors, a less common sleep disturbance that usually strikes during the first third of the night. Children having a night terror episode remain fast asleep throughout, in a deep, nondreaming state, yet they're extremely agitated and hard to console. Afterwards, they go back to snoozing soundly and won't remember the incident in the morning.

Why nightmares happen

Most kids have nightmares once in a while, but 5- to 8-year-olds, with their rapidly expanding grasp of real-life perils (like car accidents, violence, and death), may be especially affected.

Your child's nightmares may stem from listening to a story that's scary (even if it doesn't seem scary to you), watching an upsetting program or movie, getting excited or worked up before bed, or feeling anxious or stressed during the day.

Many things can cause stress – and nightmares – for a 5- to 8-year-old, from starting school to changes in childcare, parental divorce, a death in the family, or a parent's layoff from work. For a child working through her feelings about these stressful events, nightmares are a normal response, and you're not a bad parent if your child has them.

How to help your child after a nightmare

Go to your child when she cries out. Physical reassurance is important, so hug her or rub her back until she calms down. If you bring her into your bed to comfort her, be aware you could be creating a habit that's hard to reverse.

Let her tell you about the nightmare if she wants to, but don't press it. At this age she understands the difference between reality and fantasy, so you can console her by reminding her it was "only a dream." But be patient if she's still upset – we all know the emotions conjured up by a nightmare are very real.

You may also want to show your child there are no monsters under the bed or hiding in the closet. Be nonchalant about it to avoid getting drawn into an all-the-lights-on monster-hunt extravaganza. Double-check that your child's favorite toy or stuffed animal is tucked in with her, make sure the night-light is on, and remind her you're right down the hall, ready to assure that everyone in the house is safe.

Teaching nightmare-coping skills can also help. Some children like coming up with a "happy ending" for their dream the next day. Others may benefit from drawing a picture of the bad dream and throwing it away.

Preventing nightmares

First, minimize overall stress by making sure your child gets enough sleep.

A relaxing and predictable bedtime routine can help ward off nightmares – try a warm bath, an uplifting story, a song, and end with a night-light. You can also read books that talk about bedtime fears, such as There are Monsters in My Room, by Michael and Rachel Yu or Bye-Bye Bad Dreams, by Stephanie L. Robinson.

Some 5- to 8-year-olds are comforted by feeling they have control of a scary situation. Though not all kids are consoled by methods like these, here are a few nighttime tricks to try:

  • Write a sign that says, "Only good dreams allowed here," or a similar sentiment, to hang over your child's bed. Have her decorate it with stickers or drawings of things she enjoys and wants to dream about.
  • Let her rub a little skin lotion or face cream – you might call it "good dream cream" – on her tummy or forehead before turning in.
  • Fill a spray bottle with water scented with a couple drops of vanilla extract ("monster spray" or "nightmare repellent") and let your child banish scary dreams by spritzing a little around her room before bed.

If you suspect anxiety or stress is behind the bad dreams, try talking to your child about what might be bothering her during the calmer daylight hours. If the nightmares persist and she's extremely afraid of going to bed or fearful during the day, bring it up with her doctor – the dreams could signal an emotional issue that needs addressing.

Watch the video: 7 Common Dream Meanings You Should NEVER Ignore! (May 2022).


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  2. Rasmus

    This topic is simply matchless

  3. Tamar

    I am very grateful to you for information.It's very useful.

  4. Mezikora

    Without offending your neighbor,

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