Holly Easterby adores her family and wants to help fellow moms like her take care of this treasure. This is what she loves to write about on blogs like Bonza Brats. In this article, she explains the causes of kids’ nightmares and what to do about them.
Babies have dreams, both good and bad ones. While most of them may have a few bad dreams, these nightmares seem to happen more during their preschool years. At this point in the life of a parent, it might help to learn more about the causes of kids having nightmares and how to deal with them.
When Nightmares Happen
Nightmares usually happen at that certain point in your sleep when the brain is at the peak of its activity, when it is going through the day’s experiences and new learning and memories. This is also the time when the images captured during the day remain vivid enough that they might feel real and trigger certain emotions.
This is called the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, which manifest in the rapid movement of the eyes under the eyelids. Nightmares usually occur during the second portion of your sleep because it’s when REM intervals are stretched out than the previous periods.
In the case of kids having nightmares, the images tend to stay longer and more alive in their minds, hence the need to feel comforted.
When they are in preschool, you can explain to them that nightmares aren’t real and that whatever happened to them in there won’t hurt them. But one thing you need to remember when dealing kids with nightmares is that knowing this fact isn’t enough to stop them from being scared. Older kids may even feel scared, too.
What Causes Nightmares
No studies have firmly established the cause of nightmare in kids. But as observed, extreme tiredness, not enough sleep, stress or anxiety, and irregular sleeping habits may lead to experiencing nightmares.
Nightmares, like dreams, may be one of the ways kids deal with different feelings and thoughts about their experiences and worries.
They may happen for no apparent reason. But for some, they could be troubling kids who are dealing with unsettling situations, such as moving, family problems, going to a new school, or welcoming a new member of the family. Their confused emotions over these things may manifest in their dreams.
In some cases, the cause of nightmare in kids is trauma. It could be an accident, injury, or natural disaster. Having a creative imagination doesn’t help these cases either, as the scary movies, books, or TV shows the kids watch may trouble their dreams, causing nightmares.
Kids at a certain age often share a single theme in their dreams, depending on what they are struggling with at their age. It could be about separation anxiety, independence, or aggression. These emotions translate to the characters often recurring in their nightmares, such as bad guys, monsters, imaginary creatures, animals, or even familiar faces, events, and places.
There are also kids who end up with nightmares due to psychological and genetic factors. According to a study, about 7% of kids with nightmares have family members who are also troubled with nightmares. This is also a common occurrence among kids who are dealing with depression, mental retardation, and other conditions that involve the brain.
How to Comfort a Child after a Nightmare
As a parent, you have to adapt to dealing kids with nightmares. Help your child calm down and make him feel safe in your arms after waking up. You have to boost your child’s sense of security after a nightmare.
Give more reassurance to your child by showing him that he only had a nightmare, but he’s awake now and everything is going to be fine. It’s important to make him feel that what he dreamt about won’t happen in real life.
Show your child that you understand what he went through. Tell him that everyone has nightmares and that it’s normal for people with bad dreams to feel scared.
To further assure your child that the monsters or any of the bad guys in his dream have disappeared, check under his bed. Open his closet. Go to the bathroom. Show him that the coast is clear and that he has nothing to be afraid of anymore.
It might help if you install a nightlight in your kids’ room to counteract his fear of the dark.
Lull your kid back to sleep. You could cover him with a warm blanket, let him hug his favorite toy, turn soft music on, or switch the nightlight on. You may also want to tell him about pleasant dreams to motivate him to go to sleep and distract him from his nightmare. Make sure to kiss him good night once more.
The most important thing for a parent to do when dealing kids with nightmares is to listen. Let him get over his fears by talking about it. They might even want to draw it to full express themselves and to help them feel like those monsters at night are powerless in the daylight.
How to Prevent Nightmares
A child’s active imagination may be partly responsible for these nightmares. Don’t feed it, so stop your child from watching scary TV shows or movies or reading frightening books. Ask him about how his day was and if anything stressful has happened to him, which might trigger a nightmare. Help your child develop a healthy sleeping habit. Be more sensitive to your child if there are major changes in your life, such as moving house, getting into a new school, or welcoming a new sibling. If recurring nightmares happen, let your child express it by talking, writing, drawing or acting. This might help them feel braver about conquering their fears. If nightmares have become one of your kids’ persistent sleep problems, it might be best to consult a doctor about it.
Author: Holly Easterby
Holly’s love for children has seen her featured in many education and children websites, whether talking about healthy snacks, motivating students or children’s fashion at Bonza Brats. Holly loves reading books, and shopping is her way of spending time with her young family. If you would like to catch her, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @HollyEasterby