Nightmares are frightening dreams that usually wake children up. Since children tend to remember nightmares, having a bad dream may cause a child to cry or be afraid to go back to sleep. Here are tips for foster parents of children who have nightmares.
What to Do When a Child Has a Nightmare
- Go immediately to reassure and comfort the child for a brief period.
- Turn on a dim light such as a night light if the child wants a light on.
- The child should return to sleep in the child’s bed.
- Keep the door open when you leave the child’s room.
Strategies to Prevent Nightmares
- Developing good sleep habits may lower the frequency and intensity of nightmares. The child needs to get enough sleep for his or her age. Putting the child on a regular sleep schedule of going to bed and waking at the same time every day is also helpful.
- Have a “happy hour” during the last 60 minutes before the child goes to sleep. Try to keep the child focused on happy topics during this time. Consider filling this time with relaxing activities like a bath, a bedtime story, or listening to soothing music.
- Encourage the child to talk about his or her scary dreams during the day.
- Keep the child from watching or hearing frightening movies or shows.
- Sleeping with a comfort toy like a plush bear or under a special blanket can be helpful.
- The child may benefit from hearing stories about individuals who get over their nighttime fears.
Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is an essential component of a child’s overall wellness. If the child’s nightmares worsen or become more frequent, you may want to raise the issue with a pediatrician.