14 Tips to Help Make to it the Other Side of the Nightmare Phase
- Go to your child right away when they call out for you and give them a hug or rub their back while they calm down.
- It helps to give them a change of scenery, but keep them out of your bedroom to prevent ongoing requests to sleep with mom and dad from becoming a reality. Our office and living room are bright rooms without a television to get them away from the "scene of the crime" even if it's just for a few minutes.
- Let them tell you about the nightmare, if they want, but don't push too hard if they don't want to talk about it that night. It can wait until tomorrow, in the light of day.
- Tell them that it's only a dream and that a nightmare isn't real, but again remember how real this might seem to them. You may want to turn on some lights and show them that there are no monsters hiding under the bed or in the closet, but try to avoid turning it into an all night expedition (complete with pitch forks and torches). Remind them that you are nearby so you can keep them safe.
- If they share a room with a sibling let them know that they can jump into bed and cuddle each other to help feel better (and keep the parental bed child free for the night).
- Help them make a dream catcher craft and hang it above their bed to help snare bad dreams and only let the good ones in.
- If they are still talking about the nightmare (or monster) during the day, have them draw a picture of it and then have the child tear it up or throw it in the garbage.
- They may be scared from listening to a scary story (It drives me insane how many children stories focus on monsters. I am talking about you too Grover!) Maybe it's time to put them aside for a little while or keep them as afternoon reads.
- Same goes for upsetting TV or movies. If these are favourites of your kids (Molly loves Sleeping Beauty, but Maleficent and the dragon are pretty scary) remember the further you keep movies with dragons and evil witches away from bed time, the better.
- Keep creepy music off of the play list for a while. You can listen to Marilyn Manson or your Slipknot album on your own time. When Chris was a kid he listened to the radio when he was trying to fall asleep and would get scared every time the songs Ghostbusters, Thriller or Somebody's Watching Me came on the radio - which in the 1980s was a lot!
- Let them rub a little skin lotion (I've heard it called "good dream cream") onto their tummy or forehead before turning in for the night. Maybe let them decorate the bottle and make it a part of the bed time routine.
- Some parents have found that putting a few drops of a relaxing scent into a spray bottle (like vanilla or jasmine) and spraying it in the nursery before bed can make for excellent "monster repellent" or "Stay AWAY Monster Spray"
- Stick to bed time routines and schedules to avoid kids getting over-tired and sleepy mean. This helps everyone. Go to bed on time yourself so you can be patient when it's "Bad Dream Go Time".
- Don't underestimate the power of a new nightlight or bad dream fighting toy. When I was having tons of snake nightmares, my mom bought me a giant woollen stuffed snake (meant to go along the bottom of a door to block winter drafts). She told me it would scare away all of the other snakes - and most of the time it did!
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