Nightmares are a common occurrence in childhood, and they can be quite distressing for both children and parents. While they are a normal part of development, it’s still frightening and confusing for children, and anxiety-producing for parents. Let’s explore the reasons why children have nightmares and what we as parents can do to help them.
There are several reasons why children have nightmares. One of the most common causes is stress and anxiety. Children often experience nightmares about things that worry them, such as starting school, going to the doctor, or even just being away from their parents (separation anxiety). This is especially true for younger children who are still developing their coping skills and don’t have the ability to process their emotions on their own.
Another reason children have nightmares is due to exposure to scary or violent media, in the form of movies, TV shows, or video games. Children’s imaginations are vivid and easily influenced, so what they see and hear can linger on in their dreaming.
Sleep deprivation is also a common cause of nightmares in children. Children need enough good quality sleep to function properly, and a poor sleep leads to their minds becoming more active and imaginative during the night through disturbing dreams.
Finally, children who have experienced trauma or abuse may also have nightmares. These types of nightmares can be particularly hard for parents to navigate as the torment of the traumatic event keeps re-creating itself in the child’s mind.
As parents, let’s see how we can help our children when they experience nightmares.
- Provide a safe and comforting environment: Children need to feel safe and secure in order to sleep well, so make sure their bedroom is a place of comfort and safety. You can do this by having a nightlight, a favourite toy, or a special blanket.
- Talk to your child about their nightmares: Encourage your child to talk about their nightmares and what they mean to them. This can help your child process their feelings and reduce their fear.
- Help your child develop coping skills: Teach your child ways to manage their stress and anxiety, such as PRAYER and scripture reading and memorising, deep breathing exercises, positive affirmations, and hugs and affection. This can help them develop healthy coping mechanisms that can be used to reduce their nightmares.
- Control what your child is exposed to on their screens: Don’t give them access to any violent or scary content that is not age appropriate and life affirming. Vet all the programmes that they are permitted to watch – remember you are the authority when it comes to what’s appropriate and what’s not, let it be age-appropriate, positive and uplifting.
- Develop good sleep habits: Make sure your child is getting enough sleep and establish a consistent, peaceful bedtime routine. This will help them develop good sleep habits and reduce the frequency of nightmares.
- Seek spiritual or professional help if needed: If your child’s nightmares are severe or are affecting their daily life, seek the help of your local Church because prayer is powerful! If it’s trauma-based seek out a qualified mental health professional who can provide additional support and guidance to help your child overcome their nightmares.
Watching your child suffer the impact and after-effects of nightmares can be so hard for parents, but there are tools you can use to help you navigate this difficult situation, hopefully with a peaceful end in sight!
Don’t forget we’re always here to listen and impart wisdom where we can to our Little Heroes Families – chat to us and let us help you!