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Bad Dreams in Children

What Causes Bad Dreams in Children and How You Can Prevent Them

The following article brings forth the causes behind bad dreams in children as well as suggests effective ways to put an end to their "nightmares". Read on...
AptParenting Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Bad dreams, nightmares, fear of the unknown - these are commonly experienced by children all over the world. There comes a time in almost all children's lives, when they start fearing monsters, ghosts, fairies and many other make believe characters they come across while reading or watching TV. It is quite common for children to ask their parents to look around their room, under their bed, behind the door, over the window, to check that there's nobody so that they can sleep in peace. These fears in real life, may sometimes transfer to their dreams and they start having nightmares. Children may start wake up suddenly in the night and start crying or they may insist that they will sleep with the parents. That's why, instead of letting the children live in fear of dreams and getting disturbed themselves, parents should take some measures to stop their children from having bad dreams. For this, identifying the causes behind bad dreams is the first step.

What Causes Bad Dreams?

Bad dreams in kids can be caused due to a number of reasons. The most common amongst these is when a child is exposed to some scary images and scenes in story books or while watching television. The visual impact of these scary images can last for a long time and the child may start having bad dreams due to them.

Researches in the field show that any traumatic event in a child's life can lead to bad dreams. For a child, anything that makes him cry can be traumatic and hence can be dreamed of. If the child has been given injections, if he has undergone some treatments, if he has ever been left behind or left alone by the family, if he is in pain and discomfort due to a disease, if he has just started going to the school or is being bullied by someone, if the child has been teased by his siblings - all these things, which may seem minor to the adults can actually cause bad dreams in children. As a parent, it is your duty that you talk to your children and try to put an end to these nightmares.

How to Stop Children from Having Bad Dreams?

Parents whose children are experiencing bad dreams and have seen the children crying, getting restless over them, the first thing to do is to talk to the children about dreams. Parents can share some of their own dreams while having breakfast to let the child know that it is normal to have them. This will make the child feel safe and he would be forthcoming in describing his dreams too. If the dream has been really scary, parents can make a story and turn it into something positive or funny! Or, they can ask the child to draw his dream and then taking his hand, draw something beautiful on the drawing that he has made. By doing such things, parents are in a way giving a control to the child over his conscious and subconscious mind and thus, he will feel less stressful the next time he has a bad dream. The child will know that he can "change the nightmare" and thus, won't feel too scared.

Reassuring the child and instilling positive thoughts in his mind is very important. Parents should give the child time, ask him if he is having some problems in school or if anyone is trying to frighten him. Basically, the idea is to create a safe and secure environment for the child to live in. Before sleeping, if the child is reminded of all the good and happy things that he would do in the morning i.e. watch the sunrise, play with toys, eat his favorite pudding, etc., it will help the child sleep in a positive mode and thus, can stop bad dreams in him.

Having the children maintain the same sleeping pattern i.e. making them sleep and wake up at the same time, leaving the light in their room on while they are sleeping, reading them a nice bedtime story, hugging and cuddling them every now and then, making them pray before sleeping to calm their mind - these are some other things that parents can do to stop bad dreams. In the end, if none of these seem to work and the episodes of bad dreams keep on increasing, making your child seem restless throughout the day, it is recommended that medical help should be sought.