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There are monsters under the bed!

Nightmares are a common occurrence with children of all ages. Children between 3 and 6 years old are more susceptible to nightmares because this is the time when their imaginations are rapidly developing.

8 Ways to reduce nightmares for your child

Nightmares can be frightening to both the child and the parent. Although you may not be able to prevent all nightmares from occurring, I have a few suggestions on ways to lessen them.

1. Watch what you are watching on television.

Children are like sponges. They will pick up all sorts of information and visual data--even if you think they aren’t paying attention. Their young minds aren’t sophisticated enough to realize this information is not real.

2. Be consistent

Taking the time each night to follow a consistent routine will help communicate a safe environment for your young one. Routines can consist of 1) brushing teeth 2) a bedtime drink 3) choosing a book or playing a soothing song 4) and most importantly- consistent bedtime.

3. Reduce home tension

Sometimes if there is tension between parents or older children, younger children can manifest nightmares to help cope with the stress. Be careful to monitor tension in the household when children are experiencing nightmares.

4. Have an ally

Little ones need an ally while they sleep. Teddy bears or plush toys can be called upon to protect children while they sleep. When choosing a stuffed friend, let your child select it and encourage them to create a story around how they are protectors.

5. Let the light shine

Night lights are great to help protect against monsters. There are several adorable night light designs available on the market. Choose one that only slightly illuminates the room while still promoting sleep.

6. Encourage your child.

If your little one has a nightmare and wakes you up, try not to be stern. Let your child know that you are watching over him and will keep him safe. Explain that these dreams can't hurt him.

7. Avoid letting your child come to bed with you.

Letting a child come into your bed will reinforce the behavior of waking you up and asking to sleep with you.

8. Rule out illness?

How does your child feel? Sometimes, nightmares can be caused by illness. If recurring nightmares continue for more than 10 days, make an appointment to see your pediatrician.

After a nightmare: what can a parent can do?

Let her know she is safe. If your child wakes from a nightmare, reassure her that you are there and she is safe. Listen to their specific fears and let them know it was not real – the scary stuff is not really happening.

If your child is young enough, you might use pretend monster spray or sternly tell the monsters to leave!

Talk together about the pleasant things you both want to dream about.

Amanda Votruba, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic 192 Dodge Pediatrics

Dr. Votruba answers your questions about child health and parenting. As a pediatrician, Dr. Votruba feels that seeing the kids every day is the best part of her job. With four children, including one set of twins, she enjoys sharing her experience and assisting parents through all phases of their child's life. She feels that by knowing the child's health history she can help parents and patients feel more comfortable and trust that she will take this into account. She has college students ...

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