Young children, especially between the ages of three and six, often wake up at night and come to us in shock for our protection. Nighttime fears lurk when the light goes out and they go to sleep, and nightmares and night terrors are normal.
Fear is an emotion that children should experience, but it is important that they know that we are by their side so that they go through it. We give you some tips to help your child overcome his nighttime fears.
Nightmares and night terrors
Before continuing we must differentiate between nightmares and night terrors. Nightmares are a very scary dream, followed by a full awakening.
On the other hand, after night terrors the child may appear to be awake, but in reality it is a partial awakening from a very deep sleep phase. He may even scream and move while he’s having her, but then he doesn’t remember what happened.
These episodes are very common in children, in fact feeling fear is not bad, since it is also part of the learning that helps them evolve and better cope with the situations that arise.
Through dreams we channel everyday experiences and the emotions that they produce in us. In children in the middle of the stage where monsters and terrifying characters occupy a lot of their thoughts, it is normal for them to revive them in their dreams. On some occasions, fears are motivated by situations that distress them such as a move, separation from parents, change of school, etc.
How to help them overcome nighttime fears?
What can parents do to help them overcome these fears? It is clear that we cannot control their dreams, so it is inevitable that they will suffer from them. But we can take into account certain routines to try that the child has the most pleasant sleep possible.
We can, for example:
● Designate a protective stuffed animal to take care of at night.
● Create some made up character like a good fairy who comes at night and takes the monsters away or this monster scare spray idea which is great.
● Do not scare them with the man with the bag, or the black hand, or the bad witch, or that kind of nonsense. Help him differentiate fiction from reality.
● Demystify how terrifying monsters can be, by telling them stories about good monsters or good witches, or for example through films like Monster’s, which I think is a good idea to address the issue of fears in children.
● Bedtime routine also plays a role: Create a cozy, relaxing environment with soft music and soft lighting.
● You can leave a night light on in case your child wakes up at night.
● Prevent him from watching movies with violent scenes before going to bed. Instead, read a nice bedtime story to him.
● Talk about the bad dream the next morning and explain that there is nothing to fear, that monsters do not exist and that Mom and Dad are there to take care of it.
Despite all precautions, one night the child will wake up in fear. Do not minimize the feeling of him by saying things like “it is not true” or “do not be scared”, for them feeling fear is important and they need the parents to be there to take care of them and reassure them.
They don’t get braver by not comforting them. The bad things in life will always be there, and even if we wanted to, we cannot prevent our children from suffering. But the important thing is to show them that we are there to accompany them until they pass.