What To Do When Your Toddler Has Nightmares
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As someone who often has very vivid dreams and nightmares, I was not surprised when my own child started having them too.
Having first-hand experience with dealing with them helped give me the empathy and understanding I needed in order to help my child.
These are the strategies I would recommend.
#1 Be Empathetic
I know what it’s like to have to summon up patience for yet another nighttime time disturbance. However, I urge you to be empathetic towards your toddler.
Nightmares are frighteningly real-like to them.
As adults, we have the ability to talk ourselves down and back into reality. A toddler has not yet mastered that skill.
Be patient and let them know that you honestly do care about their fears. (Read my tips for conquering toddler fears –> HERE)
#2 Rule Out Contributing Factors
There are often outside factors that can directly impact the quality of your child’s sleep.
Temperature is a big one! My kids are far more prone to nightmares if they are overly warm at night.
I also try to be mindful of what they’re watching if nightmares are becoming a frequent issue.
Some children are super sensitive and something that might not seem frightening at all can really play on their minds.
Think through their day and what might be impacting their sleep at night.
#3 Work On It During The Day
When toddlers wake from a nightmare in the night, their often irrational. They’re half asleep and it is just too much to try and logically work through things.
So, instead, work on it during the day. Have conversations about dreams and that they’re not real.
Teach them to pray and think about something that makes them happy. This won’t work immediately, but this is a skill for the long-term.
#4 Have A Game Plan
Toddlers aren’t the only ones that tend to be rather irrational during the wee hours of the morning.
As adults, we don’t generally make the smartest decisions on the spot when we’re half asleep either. Therefore, I suggest you have a game plan.
If nightmares are a recurrent issue then this is especially important. There is the potential to create habits that you will struggle to break in the future.
In saying that, you still need to be able to help your child work through their fears.
Most of the time we’re able to settle our children in their own beds. However, there have been times when that isn’t successful.
On those occasions, we set up a mattress intended for a pack n play on our bedroom floor. We have our child sleep there. This gives them the comfort of being near us while still allowing everyone to get a good night’s sleep.
If you’re a co-sleeping family, this may not be an issue for us at all, but everyone in our family sleeps better in their own space. (Read why we don’t co-sleep –> HERE)
#5 Be Patient
Often times, nightmares can be developmental.
There is so much growth and development going on in that brain of your child's that nightmares often come with the territory.
As frustrating as it is, be consistent, empathetic, and above all, patient as you and your child work through this phase. It will get better.