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How To Help Kids Cope With Nightmares

Aug 18, 2007
Almost everyone can relate to having a bad dream on an occasional basis. It is quite normal for kids to also experience the odd one too.

Changes in our kid's lives or new challenges can spur on some bad dreams. They are usually quite common prior to the age of six years old, then they begin to lessen as they learn to better cope with changing conditions.

Events that may be stressful or upsetting that can be responsible for bad dreams are often challenges such as moving, starting a new school, living through a remarriage or divorce, bringing a new baby home plus more. These nightmares usually diminish as the child starts to recover and cope with the issue.

When kids wake up from a nightmare they are usually feeling frightened and scared. They can be hard to calm at first and often need support to go back to sleep.

If your child is experiencing bad dreams or nightmares, here are some tips parents can use to help them cope:

* Avoid allowing them to watch violent or frightening television shows, especially near bedtime.

* If your child is crying out, go to them and comfort them. Reassure your child and tell them they are safe.

* Stay with your child until they have settled back to sleep or are happy to do so on their own. They may need a quiet story or a little drink to feel more relaxed.

* Try to get your child to talk about the dream. Sometimes this makes the dream feel less frightening. If they don't want to talk about the dream that is fine. They may wish to discuss it the next day.

* Have your child sleep in a room nearby or use monitors so you can hear if they need you. This will also be reassuring for them to know they can be heard.

* Establish a warm and peaceful bedtime ritual like a bath, warm drink, story, cuddle and being tucked in to bed.

* Talk in the morning if your child had a bad night. Reassure them that occasional bad dreams are normal.

* Use a night-light. Many kids are scared of the dark so a night-light can offer some reassurance.

* Try to reduce any stress in your home. Any fighting, abuse or sickness can be distressing.

* Help your kids create new endings to the dreams in order to confront and solve the issue. Try re-enacting the ending to the dream or rewriting it. Your child could draw a picture of a happier ending to the dream. Encourage creative, non-violent resolutions. This may also lead to improved problem solving skills when your child wakes up alone next time they have a bad dream.

* Reassurance is critical. The more you can calm your child's anxiety and help them feel safe, the more they will open up and talk to you.

Parents should feel concerned if their child has frequent nightmares. Recurring bad dreams may entail a message or warning of an issue your child is facing. We need to discover solutions to the life problem that is setting off the bad dreams.

Try repeating and working through the nightmares with your child and find solutions in various forms until they feel a sense of mastery or control over the issue.

Try to discover the source of the nightmare and work towards correcting the real life problem causing the bad dreams.

If upsetting dreams persist and you feel concerned, consult a doctor or therapist for more advice. Persistent and disturbing nightmares should not be taken lightly or ignored.
About the Author
Joss Daly is a mum and primary school teacher. She likes to share helpful techniques for connecting and talking with kids. For other great tips, advice and information, visit her website Kids Talk and make parenting a priority today.
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