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Tips On How To Manage Your Child’s Nightmares

We use the term ‘Nightmare’ to describe a range of bad situations but a real nightmare can leave a child feeling angry, shameful, scared, anxious, or upset. 

Whilst toddlers can take a long time to calm down because they believe the nightmare to be real, older children can learn to differentiate dreams from reality and develop coping techniques to help them resettle. 

Nightmares can be triggered by psychological stress such as anxiety, or having witnessed an accident/natural disasters/scary TV programme.


All children are different and prevention methods may not work for all children. You need to find the best way that suits you and your child but try some of the ideas below and let us know what works for you.

Top Tips to Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

The importance of sleep is often raised in the media.  Parents can be left feeling criticised and helpless. Instead of beating yourself up about the fact that your children may not be getting enough sleep, here are some easy ways to help them get into good habits and for you to tell if they’re getting enough sleep.

So first things first, is your child getting enough sleep?

Is your child difficult to wake in the morning, or grumpy, aggressive or very quiet in the evenings? If so, the chances are he or she needs more sleep.

But how can you get a child who insists he’s not tired and doesn’t want to go to bed to get enough sleep? It’s especially difficult in the summer with the lighter nights and warmer days.

As with most things, making it into a game can help, but it’s all in the planning. Children often have excess energy and giving them something active to do about an hour before can help them get rid of that energy whilst still leaving time for them to calm down.   After the energetic game, a bath can help relax a child and can be the start of a routine that will act as a conditioning trigger to help children to relax into sleep. Use this time to talk to your child so you can discuss worries and fears so that there is less chance of a child getting into bed with unresolved issues going around in his head.

A milky drink, banana or other small, healthy snack can also form part of the routine – sucking is a natural stress relief action so consider giving children a drink through a straw, drinking bottle, or sippy cup. Having this snack whilst reading a book, either curled up with you, or on their own if they’re old enough and enjoy independent reading will clear their minds and allow the body to relax.

Keep the room calm and as dark as possible. If you live in a noisy area, an audiobook or soft music can help mask external noises that may keep a child awake.

It’s important to help children listen to their own bodies so model this for them to copy and learn from. If you’re tired, get ready for bed with them and show them that going to bed is an enjoyable end to a busy day, and is not any form of punishment or a tool for getting children out of the way.

Top Tips to help manage your child’s nightmares.

• Listen and discuss – Listen to your child’s worries and discuss how they are feeling and why. This will give you an indication of the cause of the night terrors and could enlighten you to a solution.

• Have fun in the dark – Get a torch and have a treasure hunt or play tag in the dark.  By a child having fun in the dark they will associate the dark with fun and will become less scared.

• Reassure your child – Provide comfort and tell them that there is nothing to worry about.  A kiss and cuddle may do this. Agree a strategy with older children to help them calm down and forget the bad dream – reading a joke book or something silly can help.

• Get into a healthy sleep routine – Try and devise a bedtime routine together and adhere to this as much as possible to encourage calm and peaceful bedtimes.

• Provide security for your child – Allow your child to sleep with something that provides them with comfort, such as a soft toy or blanket.

• No scary TV – Ensure that your child is not watching or witnessing anything scary before bed that could provoke a nightmare.

• Encourage positive thoughts – Read the start of a calm, happy story and let them imagine or tell you the rest of it.  This encourages positive dreams and promotes their sense of control.

• Keep the door open – Keep the child’s door slightly open to prevent them from feeling isolated.  They may fall asleep easier with background noise and hearing their parents voices.  Also if a child is experiencing a nightmare and becomes distressed then parents have more of a chance of hearing them with the door open.

• Let there be light – Some children feel happier with a night-light on.  This is fine and maybe the comfort your child needs . Just ensure that the night-light does not prevent the child from falling asleep, make it as dim as possible.

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