It’s natural for children to experience bad dreams, and studies tell us that nightmares can begin as early as three years old. According to Cleveland Clinic, 10 to 50% of children experience nightmares, bad dreams that are significant enough to disturb their parents.
Unfortunately, while nightmares and bad dreams aren’t preventable, there are a number of ways that parents can help kids feel better about bad dreams.
Here are a few of our favorite tips for bedtime, and we’d love to hear what you’ve learned from experience as well!
Create a bedtime ritual. Children like routine, and helping them relax as they get ready for bed will quiet their mind and help them ease into a state of calm. Whether it is a nightly bath, storytime, or family pillow talk...when children know what to look forward to each night, they are more likely to fall asleep, and stay asleep.
Don’t minimize their fears. While it’s natural to immediately reassure your child that their bad dream wasn’t real, instead try validating their feelings while providing reassurance. For example, you might say something like, “That sounds very scary, but I promise there’s no monster under your bed.”
Think happy thoughts. It is never too early to encourage positive thinking, especially after a bad dream. Use leading questions to prompt your child, “What would you like to dream about?” to encourage kids that they have the power to shape their dreams. This practice not only introduces the idea of manifestation, but also promotes imagination and realigns their feelings about bedtime.
Don’t be afraid of the dark. Oftentimes being in the dark can be a scary proposition, but as parents, we can reframe the idea of being in the dark as one that can be relaxing, and even fun! Using a flashlight to play “I Spy” or building a living room fort introduces the idea that the dark doesn’t have to be scary. The less scared kids are of the dark, the more likely they’ll be able to achieve a restful night of sleep.
Provide security. The idea of providing security can come in many forms, whether it be a reassuring hug before bedtime, or a security object like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. While these objects may seem trivial, they can provide a great deal of comfort throughout the night.
We hope these tips help your little dreamers. We’d love to hear your favorite tips in the comments below.