Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

Helping Your Child Cope with Nightmares

Around 50% of young kids have severe nightmares that cause them to wake up their parents. I had a nightmare every night as a kid, and even though it was distressing to me, it was equally distressing to my parents. My bedtime routine became a battle because I was so terrified to get into bed. And even when I finally did get to sleep, I would wake up from a nightmare and refuse to go back to sleep. This goes without saying, but it isn’t very fun when your child is keeping you up all night and it really isn’t fun to see your sweet child so terrified.

So here are some quick and easy tricks to help your child cope with these nightmares:

  • Communicate: The first and most important thing you should always do after your child has a nightmare is reassuring them that it wasn’t real. Avoid dismissing their fears because to them, the nightmare was very real. Just let them know that nightmares are make-believe and that they are safe.
  • Monster SprayIf they are scared of monsters in the night, try using “Monster Spray.” Get an empty spray bottle and fill it with tap water. You could even add a few drops of an essential oil so your kid can smell the spray. You can tell your kid that the spray will protect them from any monsters that come their way.
  • Enlist the help of your furry friends: As a kid, my parents would bring our cat into my bedroom at night and tell me that he was going to eat all of the monsters that came into my room. To this day, they say that that trick is the only thing that got me to sleep at night. Even if you’re kid isn’t having nightmares about monsters, you could tell them that their dog or cat is protecting them against whatever is scaring them.
  • Create a simple and relaxing bedtime routine: In the 30-60 minutes before your child goes to sleep, help them slow down and feel safe. Give them an extra snuggle and talk about all the happy things that happened that day.

While these tips may work for some people, they may not work for you and your child’s unique needs. You may even need to talk to your doctor if the nightmares are preventing your child from getting enough sleep or if they are causing emotional and behavioral troubles. And if you have any questions or concerns along the way, any parent support specialist at Help Me Grow Utah would be happy to help!

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