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Nightmare know-how

Is your child calling out for you in the middle of the night, frightened from a nightmare? Though this is a normal part of child development, you can take steps to help cut down on the nightmares — and handle them better. Learn how here.

Child's nightmares

Is your little one waking up often with nightmares of a big hairy monster hiding under the bed? These scary dreams happen during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which tends to be in the second half of the night. Your son or daughter will awake and may call out to you for comfort. Although it can be distressing to see your loved one crying and frightened, take comfort — nightmares are common and part of a child’s development. They tend to happen more often around the ages of two to three years, or after a traumatic event.

Preventing nightmares

In order to reduce the likelihood of your child having nightmares, as you might expect, it’d be wise to avoid scary books and movies before bedtime. Also, make sure your kid is getting enough sleep on a regular basis; when a child is sleep-deprived, this can lead to more frequent nightmares. If nightmares persist, check in with your pediatrician. Could a medication your child is on be interfering with his or her sleep?

How to handle your child’s nightmares

Attend to your child as soon as she or he calls out for you. Comfort him and reassure him that you are right there and you will not let anything hurt him. Talk in a soothing voice and hold him close to you as you reassure him. Be sure to listen to him and acknowledge that you understand the nightmare was real to him. Ask him to describe what happened in his nightmare. He may insist the monster is still in the room;  go ahead and show him that the room is monster-free and safe, and reassure him you are just down the hall. Leave the bedroom or hall light on if he asks you to. Finally, before you leave him to go back to sleep, offer a stuffed animal friend as a guardian or a magic wand that gives him superpowers, so he will feel less scared.

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