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Nightmares & How to Help Children Deal With Them

Have you ever woken up scared or upset from a really bad dream? Did you know most toddlers start to experience nightmares or bad dreams from around the age of two? Nightmares can make your toddler feel frightened and upset. They may be about something imaginary like a monster or something very real in their life and can be linked with their fears and worries.

Nightmares can occur at many different times such as:

  • After a traumatic event
  • When your toddler is feeling stressed, sick, or overtired
  • If they are taking medications.

At a young age, your little one may wake up with a fear that something bad has really happened. However, as they grow older, they begin to understand their nightmares aren’t real.

How Can You Help Your Toddler Deal With Their Nightmares?

  • Go to your toddler as soon as possible. If their bedroom is too far away to hear them cry out, it’s a good idea to set up a baby monitor
  • Comfort them if they have had a bad dream. Cuddle and reassure them explaining that it was a bad dream
  • Talk to your little one about their nightmare and encourage them to think of different endings for their bad dream which are happy and not scary
  • Sit with them until they can get back to sleep
  • If your toddler is really upset and won’t calm down, try reading them their favourite book to help them relax.

How Can You Help Prevent Your Toddler From Having Nightmares?

  • Try to reduce any stress your child is dealing with during the day time e.g. if they are going through toilet training or moving to a ‘big’ bed, you may want to consider postponing this for a just a little while
  • Make sure they’re only watching programs suitable for their age and try not to let them watch TV before bed time
  • Have a discussion about your dreams with your toddler so they know everyone has dreams and sometimes nightmares
  • Help your little one relax before bedtime with some comforting wind-down activities, such as a bath, a bed time story and a hug and kiss when they are tucked into bed
  • If your toddler keeps having the same bad dream, ask them to draw or write their dreams. This creativity may help them come up with a happier ending or make friends with the character they are scared of.

If your toddler is experiencing regular nightmares and is very anxious throughout the day, it is recommended to seek advice from a health care professional. It is also important to seek help if your child has been through a traumatic event and is experiencing nightmares.