The nightmare is a terrifying dream wolves, ogres, witches, which happens more at the end of the night. The child wakes up, screams, bursts into tears and manages to say and describe what scared him.
Night terror is very impressive, occurs in episodes, between 3 and 4 years old, at the start of sleep. The child is sitting in his bed, he is very agitated, screams, sweats, sometimes talks confused, has wide eyes, does not recognize anyone. He is in an intermediate state between wakefulness and sleep and continues to sleep.
What are the causes ?
Nightmares and night terrors are very common after emotions : annoyance with one of the parents, anger during the day, argument with a friend. They can be linked to the acquisition phases (walking, speaking), to a move, to entering school, to fears due to a too violent television program or in correlation with a family event (separation of parents, death, serious illness, birth, etc.).
But nothing serious in itself: nightmares are part of the psychic development of the child, of his emotional maturation.
How to react when my child has nightmares?
If it’s a nightmare
- Speak quietly to your child reassuring him of your protective presence, without turning on the light, and without getting him out of bed (if possible).
- Listen to him tell you what he went through so that he can free himself from it and find calm.
- Do not question the veracity of the words told. On the other hand, it is better to avoid the ritual of nightmare hunting in the closet, under the bed, behind the curtains.
- Leave him with a kiss, the blanket tight against him and the night light on.
If it’s a night terror
- Don’t wake him up. He wouldn’t understand what was happening to him.
- Stay calm by his side.
- Hold him in your arms for comfort, then lay him back down gently, but firmly.
If they recur frequently, especially beyond 6 years, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician or psychologist.
How can I prevent my child’s nightmares?
- Respect the child’s sleep rhythm by ensuring regular nights and good naps. The bedtime ritual is indeed a very important moment.
- Spend some time with your little one to prepare him for the night’s parting.
- Read him stories of very nice ogres and wolves.
- If he is afraid of the dark, leave the door ajar and / or a night light. Tell him that if he calls you, you will hear him.
- Watch out for the television programs he watches and the sometimes frightening stories that older people like to tell younger ones.