Does your child wake everybody up at night screaming, drenched in sweat or crying to crawl into your bed after s/he has had a nightmare? Having suffered from nightmares ourselves, we know how daunting they can get. So how then do you go about helping your child when s/he has had one, or is constantly having them? Below are 10 ways to help kids with nightmares:
1) Be a keen listener: As soon as your child has had a nightmare, ask them to tell you what it was about. Listening not only shows them that you care but also, gives you a picture of what they may be going through or, what may have triggered it.
2) Reassure them: Usually, after a nightmare, the child is bound to be very scared to even want to go back to sleep. At such a time, comfort them and let them know that nothing is going to happen, for you are there to protect them.
3) Teach them to love the dark: Since nightmares occur at night, many kids tend to be scared of the dark. But, there’s a way through which you make them feel comfortable while in the dark: Come up with ways of having fun in the dark such as going on treasure hunts or playing flashlight tag.
4) Leave the night light on / door slightly open: Doing any of these two acts makes the child feel safe for there’s always a belief that scary figures are scared of light. Also, with the door ajar, they will feel much closer to the rest of the family.
5) Don’t encourage the behavior: No matter how disturbing the nightmares may seem, don’t result into giving the child excess attention. Doing so may passively stimulate the nightmares for there’s assurance that the child will get special attention/treatment.
6) Don’t expose them to scary material: Keeping your child away from the scary stuff – movies, TV shows, comics or stories will drastically reduce their chances of having nightmares. Instead, you should expose them to the good stuff so as to have sweet dreams.
7) Teach them ways to overcome the nightmares: It’s important that you let the child know that they aren’t alone. You can do this by reading them stories about kids who used to be in the same predicament but overcame their fears. You may also go ahead and tell them about your very own experience. Such stories are bound to encourage them to become brave as well.
8) Get them a pet/security object: Getting your child a puppy or a kitten can in many ways help them fight nightmares. This is based on the fact that people tend to get nightmares when alone. But with a pet, s/he will feel a sense of companionship. The same is the case with security objects like teddy bears. Alternatively, if they have siblings, you can ask that they share the same room.
9) Check on them throughout the night: If your child is scared of going to bed out of fear that they may “see” monsters, you should practice checking on them regularly. For instance, be the one to tuck them in bed, read them a bedtime story and, check on them when going to bed yourself. If they are scared of monsters, this act will assure them that you be there to fight them.
10) Get them to understand that monsters don’t really exist: If you choose to perform a special act everytime the child has nightmares, like open the windows, use a broom to sweep off the monsters or use spray them out of the room, the child will end up believing that monsters do exist, and that they have a way of getting into their room. Thus, it’s important that you let them know that monsters aren’t real.