“Mommy! I had a bad dream.”
Your heart aches for your child as they recover from another nightmare. You crawl out of your bed and walk to your child’s room. You wish you could take away their nightmares, but unfortunately we can’t control our children’s imaginations. These bad dreams often leave us wondering how to help kids with nightmares.
Though you cannot entirely stop your toddler or young child from having nightmares, there are some immediate responses and preventative measures you can take to help your child get a good night’s rest.
There are two aspects to your child having nightmares: the before and the after. While your child’s nightmares might seem overwhelming, you can learn how to calm your child after a nightmare and how to create an environment where your child’s nightmares would become less frequent.
Here are some simple ways to help your child after they have a nightmare.
Your toddler or child has experienced a nightmare. Whether your child’s nightmares are full of fantastical monsters or more realistic fears of the world, listening to your child is key.
- Ask them questions so they know you are actively listening.
- Allow them to explain their fears; be cautious about dwelling on the subject for too long.
- Advise them to wait until the morning to divulge the rest of the dream. You want them to talk the dream out, but not at the expense of them not being able to fall back asleep.
After discussing the nightmare, take time to reassure your child. When doing this, try to avoid the tendency to say it’s “only a dream.” Although pure in thought, it can seem like you are brushing off their nightmare. There are a couple different ways in which you can reassure your child of their safety.
- Turn the lights on and walk through the room with them to show they are safe. Check under the bed and in the closet. Encourage them to look with you so they can see their surrounding environment.
- Give your child a reassuring hug. Though you want them to be able to cope on their own in the future, stay with them for a little while until they feel confident enough to fall back asleep.
- Pray over your child as they try to go back to sleep. We know the Lord is bigger than our fears and praying for your child is a powerful thing. Below, is a guided prayer for times when your child experiences a nightmare.
A Prayer to Help with Nightmares
Preventative Measures to Help Kids with Nightmares
Encouraging your toddler or child the moment after a nightmare is important, but so is their ability to cope with nightmares on their own. Here are a couple of ways to help your child cope with future nightmares.
Give your child fun solutions to overcome their fears. If they have nightmares about monsters, an example of this is giving them a spray bottle with water and telling them it is “Monster Repellant.” Let them keep the Monster Repellant in their room so they can use it to ward off “monsters.”
Think Good Thoughts
Though nightmares can come without warning, help your child learn to change the narrative of any scary dream. Tell them they can change the path of the dream by thinking good things before bed. If a bad dream still comes, this strategy will give them the tools to calm themselves down and repaint the dream in their mind.
The most important thing you can do to help your child cope is prayer. Teaching your child how to pray shows them how to turn to the Father in the midst of fear. Beyond praying about your toddler or child’s nightmares, there is a larger opportunity to show your child how to talk to God regularly.
Final Thoughts on How to Help with Kids Nightmares
Whether your child is a toddler or a teen, having some strategies to face bad dreams can be beneficial for any family. Be aware of healthy bedtime routines. Set a bedtime routine that allows for your kids to create good sleep habits. A lack of restful sleep can play into the frequency of nightmares.
Consider appropriate boundaries for technology during the day, but especially at night. Sadly certain images from movies, games, and even the news can become the source of bad dreams. Examine what your child is watching in order to prevent nightmares.
Finally, share bible verses about nightmares with your child. Encourage your child with the Word of God before they go to sleep.