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Nightmares: how do you reassure your child?

2021-10-19 00:00:00

Written by Marloes Dingemans

You wake up in the middle of the night because you hear your child screaming. You rush to his room and see him sitting upright in his bed, startled and wet with sweat. Every child has the occasional nightmare, it cannot be prevented but you, as a parent, can reassure your child and make them feel safe. How to do this we will tell you in this blog.

What causes a nightmare?

Almost all children suffer from nightmares from time to time. More often than adults even, with a peak at the age of five or six. Because toddlers cannot yet tell the difference between dreams and reality, nightmares can make your child anxious. As your child grows older, the frequency of nightmares will decrease.

The causes of nightmares are not immediately known, but it is clear that in the dream world of a child, much of what has happened during the day is processed. In addition, there are certain triggers that can increase the chance of nightmares. For example, nightmares are often a consequence of exciting or stressful events, a busy day or an unpleasant experience. A fever can also be a trigger for a bad dream.

What can you do?

As a parent, you cannot prevent your child from having a nightmare, but you can support him.It is important that you yourself remain calm, even if your child is very upset. This will show your confidence and will help to calm your child down.

  • Stay with your child and reassure him. It is important that you leave your child in his own bed. Talk about a nice memory, or something in the coming days that your child is looking forward to, to make sure your child can go back to sleep with a positive feeling.
  • It is also important that, just as with daytime fears, you take your child seriously. Do not dismiss the fear by playing it down ('monsters do not exist'). It feels very real for your child and it is nice when he notices that you understand this.
  • It is good to talk about the nightmare the next day. Does your child remember the nightmare? What was it about? Generally speaking, a toddler from around 3 years of age can usually tell quite well what he dreamt about or what scared him.
  • Make sure that your child does not look at the tablet or television just before going to bed. It is often nice to talk through the day together so that your child can go to sleep feeling calm and relaxed.