Wednesday, November 28, 2012


    Although nightmares represent only a small percentage of children’s dreams, they may seem more prevalent than is actually the case if they frighten your young sleeper into waking, crying and rousing the entire household. Researchers believe that all children have bad dreams, probably beginning in their second year, but that the earliest such dreams are infrequent and very simple. A two –year –old, for example, may relive a frightening experience such as getting stung by a bee.

     Nightmares are more commonly experienced by children from three to six years of age. Fevers and certain types of medication sometimes provoke scary dreams, but in most cases nightmares are brought on by the fears and other normal emotional concerns that arise from the developmental changes of early childhood. For example, a three year-old child struggling with new found feelings of anger and aggression may project these negative feelings as frightening imaginary monsters that threaten him in dreams. Certain stressful experiences can cause daytime feelings of jealousy and rebellion that may surface during sleep as nightmares. A youngster who has a new brother or sister may find that his hostile feelings toward the baby are turned in upon himself in his dreams.

    He may envision beings chased by someone big and threatening, or being left alone by the side of a desolate highway. These nightmares seem utterly real to children and often cause them to awake in a panic. It rarely will soothe a child to tell her that a nightmare was not real or that it was only a dream. Real or not, it genuinely frightened your child, and she needs your sympathy and support. The best thing you can do is to hold her close and talk to her in a calm, reassuring tone of voice. Let the youngster know that you will always take care of her and protect her. Stay with her if she is afraid to go to sleep. It is not wise to make a habit of lying down with the child or taking her to your bed. But sometimes a story, favorite toy or simply a night light will help the youngster get back to sleep.

     With older children, it sometimes helps to talk about the dream the day after. You might encourage a five or six year old child to act out the drama and to think of ways to overcome the things that frightened her. Though this may not alleviate the specific fear that caused the bad dream, it may reduce the child’s anxiety about nightmares.