It is the sound that every parent dreads; the sound of crying or screaming that somehow seems so much louder in the middle of the night. It is the sound of inconsolable sobs as your child struggles to break free of the monsters haunting their subconscious minds. Having nightmares is fairly normal for children between the ages of two and eight. There are evidently scientific reasons why this is so but for right now let’s focus on how to calm the nightmares in children rather than go into the bio-psychological causes.
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Chasing Away Nightmares; Soothing
Nightmares in Children
Nightmares are normal but upsetting, Try our ideas for chasing away nightmares in children so all the family can sleep through the night. When my daughter was six she had a reoccurring nightmare that resulted in many interrupted nights for the whole family. More disturbing than the interrupted sleep were the sobs coming from our daughter, backed by her infallible belief that her parents could fix this problem. After all, when you are six, parents should have complete control over every aspect of your life, right? So we tried soothing her, we tried to manage the stress that we knew she was experiencing. Kindergarten can be stressful and her teacher had been on medical leave for weeks but the nightmare continued.
Draw a picture of the nightmare.
So one day we asked her to draw a picture of her nightmare. She drew a picture of the nightmare under her bed and called them “blogs”. (This was before blogs became popular so maybe her subconscious knew something we didn’t.) We reassured her that we knew all about blogs and now that we knew what creature was invading her sleep we could stop them once and for all.
Set up a Nightmare Trap
I told her a story about what blogs liked to eat, (anything nasty) and we made a blog trap. That night she slept peacefully while my husband and I lost more sleep staying up making blogs out of salt dough and other random items. When the blogs were done we put them in the trap to wait for the morning. When she woke up and saw the blogs in the trap she felt victorious and gladly took them to the backyard where we threw them up into a majestic redwood tree. The blogs never came back to our house but they also mysteriously disappeared from the tree branches so if they crawled over to your house, I apologize.
Have a Bedtime Routine and Environment that Helps
Your Child Relax and Sleep through the Night
Kids of all ages get scared by nightmares, but you can help your child learn to sleep soundly again. Have a set bedtime routine with your children. Children who go to bed too late are more likely to have nightmares. School-age kids need ten to 11 hours of sleep. Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bedtime. Reading bedtime books and listening to music are calming activities for children. Practice relaxing or put on a meditation for kids CD before bed. If your child is sound sensitive try a white noise machine. Put a nightlight in their room if they are afraid of the dark. Try listening to music. ” According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, which conducted the research, the top song (Weightless) produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date.”
Create a comfort item for them to take to bed
Sometimes setting traps works and sometimes it does not. I have a few more strategies that I have used and one my sister used with her son. When my daughter got sick she would take it as a personal affront and worry about when she would feel better. I found a beautiful polished rock and I told her a story about how a girl found a rock one day while taking a walk. The rock looked, well, like a rock, ordinary and gray, but the girl loved her rock no matter how it looked and she carried it in her pocket every day. Every time that she put the rock in her pocket a little bit of gray rubbed off until one day the rock became shiny and beautiful. The girl looked at the rock and realized that she had something special. One day she felt sick and wanted to sleep in bed all day. She had no pockets so she put her rock under her pillow and went to sleep and when she woke up she felt much better. It turned out that the rock was actually a healing rock! Whenever my daughter felt sick or worried she would put that rock under her pillow and when she woke up she felt better. Even sweeter, when her cousin started having nightmares she gave the rock to him, firm in her belief in magic. Most children probably prefer a softer comfort item to take to bed so they might like to make their own Bedtime Buddy; remember to tell a story that will soothe the nightmares in children.
Give them a place to put their worries and fears
When my nephew started to have nightmares he slept with the “magic rock” with the hope that it would calm his nightmares. When the rock’s magic powers did not work to cure his nightmares my sister came up with another strategy. She went to the bead store and bought some particularly unique and attractive beads. She had my nephew make a bead bracelet and as he chose his beads she had him assign a worry or a power to each bead. He wore that bracelet every night for many months. Perhaps it was simply talking about his fears or the power of a child’s belief in magic that helped, either way, the important part is that it worked. The nightmares stopped.
Talk it out and use a child’s belief in magic
Whether it is the process of talking about their worries, a child’s confidence that their parent knows how to fix anything or a firm belief in magic that soothes away the nightmares I don’t know. I only know that telling stories and believing in magic has worked for me.