Most children have nightmares from time to time. It usually isn’t a sign of an emotional disturbance, but rather the product of your child’s normal stress and strains of growing up or even simply due to having a vivid imagination.

Night frights

The best advice when nightmares happen is:

  • Reassure your child that she’s safe.
  • Don’t say she’s silly for worrying, your child’s feelings are real.
  • Explain that what’s scared her is make-believe.
  • Stay with your child until she’s calmed down.

If your child is having recurrent nightmares of the same or similar things, they may be due to a source of unusual stress or fright during the day. In this case, it may be helpful to gently ask your child about encounters with other children or TV shows and look at how to deal with or reduce exposure to them.

Night terrors

Night terrors are different to nightmares. They occur when your child is abruptly disturbed from a deep sleep but isn’t fully awake, even though her eyes are open. Your child may scream, thrash around, not makes sense and not recognise you. It usually lasts a few minutes and your child won’t remember it in the morning.

Night terrors can be frightening for parents, but are a normal part of development and children tend to grow out of them. When they happen, just stay calm, keep your child safe and wait until they pass.

However, if you’re concerned about nightmares or night terrors, speak to your GP. For more information www.raisingchildren.net.au

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