Most children will have at least one bad dream or nightmare during their childhood, and it can be painful as parents to see your child go through that. Here are some ways to help your 5-year-old child cope with their bad dreams.
What Causes Bad Dreams?
To best help, it is critical to understand what the cause is. The exact cause of bad dreams is unknown, but research has shown that it is one way for kids to process their thoughts and feelings about situations they face or work through their worries.
Bad dreams are more likely to occur when your child is stressed or dealing with a major change like moving, starting school, or a new sibling. They could be a reaction to trauma like natural disasters, accidents, or injuries. Even reading or watching something scary could trigger a bad dream.
What Are Some Ways to Prevent Bad Dreams?
There are a few ways to prevent nightmares, but there is no one way to make sure that they will never happen. However, evidence shows that you could minimize the bad dreams by having a consistent wake-up and bedtime routine, which could include brushing their teeth, reading a story, getting dressed, or tucking in their stuffed animals. By creating this routine, you are limiting the change and stressors in their life, so that their mind is more settled when they are getting ready for bed.
Another way to prevent bad dreams is by avoiding scary movies, books, or shows before bed. Knowing what is scary for your child is an important aspect of this step because every child is different and will have different levels of tolerance to “scary” stories. It is always better to err on the side of caution at night, so if you think your child might have an issue with a certain story, it is best to save it for daylight hours.
Finally, one of the most important parts of preventing bad dreams is communication. Knowing what is going on in your child’s life is imperative to your ability to protect them. You can address their fears and work through issues during the day by asking probing questions about their day or what they are feeling, especially during a time of change or after something unsettling like an accident or natural disaster. If they process these issues when awake, their mind is less likely to dwell on them at night.
What Are the Best Ways to Cope with Bad Dreams?
When your child does wake up with a bad dream, the best thing you can do for them is reassure them that you are there, and whatever happened was only a dream, and it is over now. For a child, it can be very disorienting to wake up from a nightmare, so they need something or someone to ground them in the present and let them know that their dream is not in the real world, and it can’t harm them anymore. Once you offer that immediate reassurance, give them comfort. Show them that you understand that they are afraid and that it’s okay to be afraid. Make sure they don’t feel alone during this experience because they are already dealing with enough fear.
A great way to reassure your child is by using a bit of imagination and your parental magic. Weave a story about you fighting off the monsters or whatever is scaring your child and then maybe spray some monster repellent or sing a special song that will make the monsters go away. You can also have your child join in with you, which will help take their mind off of their dream and maybe even make them laugh.
One more practical step would be giving them a nightlight or leaving the hall light on, so your child will have a little more light when going back to sleep. When you are settling them back to sleep, give them their favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Your goal should be to make them feel safe, calm, and protected.
During the day, talk about the dream. Processing it in the daylight will let the dream lose its power. This could look like discussing, drawing, or writing about it. Another great idea is to recreate the dream or give it a new ending to turn it into a good dream.
All of these ways will aid you when you are helping your child cope with their bad dreams, and can make the experience less frightening for both you and your child.
A daycare center can help create the routine to help your child cope with bad dreams. If you want more information on what to look for in a daycare center, visit The Learning Experience and see how our daycares can help you. To find a daycare center near you, visit Find a TLE Center. We have locations all across the United States, and we’d love to serve you and your child.