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How can I help my child cope with nightmares and night terrors?

Almost all children will have nightmares from time to time. As a parent, you can’t always prevent these bad dreams from happening but you can reduce their frequency as well as dealing with them effectively with they do.

The most important points to remember are as follows:

Don’t give her the ammunition
There are many reasons why children have nightmares, many of which we have yet to fully understand. However, one of the most common causes of bad dreams is a frightening experience earlier in the day. So use some common sense and don’t let her watch television programmes or read books with aliens, ghosts or monsters before bedtime.

Leave a light on
Leaving a bedside or hallway light on won’t always prevent nightmares but it can often help. Sometimes a child going to bed in the dark will start having frightening thoughts before she falls asleep. This happens much less if she's able to see what's around her. Also, when a child wakens suddenly from a nightmare she'll probably be in a terrible state. Having a light on will help her calm down much quicker.

Children need constant reassurance from their parents and never more so than after a nightmare. It’s simply a question of trying to make her feel safe and secure. Try to help her understand that nothing bad is going to happen and that all little boys and girls have bad dreams. Give her lots of hugs and cuddles and remind her that you’ll always be there for her.

Night terrors
A night terror is where a child wakes up screaming with her eyes wide open, when in actual fact she is still asleep. The child will suddenly sit up, usually sweating profusely, shout out loud for a few seconds, before lying back down and returning to a normal sleep.

If your child suffers a night terror, the best advice is not to try to wake her. This can exacerbate the situation. Instead, you should wait for the terror to pass and then try to settle her back into bed.

The reasons behind night terrors are unknown but fortunately children soon grow out of them. Although, frightening at the time. They're really nothing to worry about.

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