How to treat your child's pandemic nightmares
Updated: Nov 2
Getting your child to go to sleep can be a beautiful time for bonding but sometimes sleep can be disrupted by nightmares, which can typically begin around the age of two and peak between the ages of three and six.
Delay tactics and 'one more story' requests aside, it's likely that the unsettling events of this year will have increased the likelihood of any of us having disturbed sleep. As adults, we are of course able to separate dreams from reality, as well as put in place some healthy sleep habits. But many young children don't tend to have the language skills to articulate how they feel, so when this happens, it may be a good idea to find other ways for them to express themselves. One way to craft your child a better night's sleep is a dream box using up some of those bits of crafty flotsam and jetsam you have lying around the house. But, let's start at the very beginning, and look at how to create a winning bedtime routine for you and your baby.
Bedtime routines for beginners
Creating a calm bedtime routine is a great way to prepare your baby for a childhood of good sleep. Lots of parents swear by the 'bath, book and bed' hat trick . Sometimes you might try some soothing music to listen to together. Whatever you do, don't play with your little one at bedtime no matter how energetic they seem to be, or how much they plead.
Don't give in to co-sleeping beyond the age of one. Your child will already be getting used to being without you as they are now moving around so, unless you want an eleven year old still crawling into your bed in the wee small hours, it's a really good idea to get your child used to sleeping alone. If they need reassurance by all means let them know you're close by but try to not jump at every cry or yell of Mummeeee or Daddeeeeee.....
Get a night light
Babies cognitive skills really ramp up around the age of two and that's where their imaginations start playing tricks. Dark rooms with shadows can be a challenge for little children which is why there are SO many nightlights on the market. We like the Gro Clock which has a countdown light display of stars when it's nearing sleep time and then a sun burst when it's time to wake up. This is a lovey way to get your toddlers understanding when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake up.
I am Afraid of the Dark by Mira Drori and illustrated by Anahit Aleksanyan
This is a book about Robin, who is afraid of the dark until he realises that the bright sunbeams don't actually disappear, but instead they go off to light up the other side of the world. Help your child spot the little elephants throughout the story as they learn that the dark, and being alone in their bed, is not a scary thing at all. Suitable for 2 - 5 year olds.
Make a dream box
One way to help kids cope with bad dreams is to create their very own dream box. Many children, especially kids younger than seven, might not have the language skills to fully articulate their fears. But art can help them visualise how to beat the stuff that scares them.
To be honest there is no hard and fast way to create your child's special dream box, but make sure they are as involved as possible in the all important design. Get a cardboard box and then decorate as directed with anything from glitter, feathers, beads, stickers or even family photos can be a lovely tool box in designing something that your child will grow to love using. When your child is happy with the dream box all that is left is to use it. We recommend popping in the sweetest dreams you and your little one can conjure up, just before bed.
There's lots of sleep tips out there, there's even sleep apps for kids you can try like Sleephero which is sound activated to play a range of options like white noise. You can even record your own voice soothing your child or singing a favourite lullaby. So don't ever give in and think you are going to be stuck with a little one with sleep problems. It really is just a question of finding the right method that suits you and your child.