Nightmares : how to handle it
They are often hard to deal with on a daily basis, tiring for the whole family: our kids’ nightmares make us worry because we feel powerless against them. But no panic ! Nightmares, whether they affect kids or adults, are perfectly normal.
Indeed, between 1 and 8 years old, your kids’ night may be agitated. Facing constant stimulation during the day, interdictions, conflicts, new encounters, new complex life lessons … they digest all these information during their sleep.
Before they turn 4 years old, children cannot make a difference between dreams and reality. Therefor the thing they need most when having a nightmare is your comforting presence. You can calm their fears with a light, a cuddly toy, by comforting them with your voice and listening to their fears if they feel the need to put them into words. Don’t try to analyse your child at such a young age. What he/she is going through is perfectly normal.
After 4 years old come the words. Your kid will learn to manage his/her fears, anger, urges all thanks to dreams and nightmares. Trying to prevent any nightmare from happening has no point as it is a natural process proof of normal cognitive development.
As your kid can now participate in a dialogue and express his/her emotions, you should try and talk to him/her. Invite your kid to tell you what the nightmare was, to describe it. Talking about it will help him/her get over the fear and comfort him/her on the normality of the event: stress at school, conflict with a classmate, kept anger or things as simple as a movie can trigger a nightmare which allows your kid to process a striking event.
However if your kid has a recurrent nightmare which happens several times a week and you don’t feel any calming from him/her, you should not hesitate to go and see a paediatrician.
As long as your kids has regular nightmare you will need to resort to your patience, gentleness and calm. You don’t need to worry, the occurrence will slowly disappear with time and soon you will enjoy full nights again !