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How to Deal With a Child Having Nightmares at Eight Years Old

by Becky Swain

Your 8-year-old child’s nightmares are a normal component of childhood development, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Although the incidence of nightmares peaks during the preschool years, older children continue to experience occasional nightmares, as well as the fear and anxiety that can accompany a nightmare. No single intervention can prevent your child from having nightmares, but making changes in her bedtime routine may increase the likelihood of a restful night for you and your child.

Why Sweet Dreams Go Sour

It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific cause for your child’s nightmares, although several factors seem to contribute to the unwelcome events, notes KidsHealth. Some nightmares result when your child experiences a transitional event such as adjusting to the birth of a sibling, moving or transferring to a new school. Family issues and parental tension can increase your child’s anxiety level and increase the incidence of nightmares. For some children, exposure to scary movies, video games and books can lead to nightmares.

Kisses and Nightlights

Implementing a pleasant and predictable bedtime routine may diminish the incidence of nightmares for your 8-year-old child. Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, and prevent exposure to frightening movies, music, books or video games about 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, recommends the Cleveland Clinic. Include activities in the bedtime routine that promote feelings of security such as a bath, story time and hugs from you. A favorite stuffed animal in a comfortable bed, a nightlight and a good night kiss from you will increase the likelihood of sweet dreams for your 8-year old.

Providing Comfort

Hurrying into your 8-year-old child’s room after he awakens from a nightmare can be a disconcerting experience. Staying calm helps your child to re-establish his composure and sense of security. Begin by telling your child that the nightmare is over, you are there and he is safe. Communicate that it’s OK to feel afraid. You might say, “I know that bad dreams can be very scary, but they can’t hurt you. I am here, and you are fine.” Talk quietly for a few minutes about the happy dreams he can have, offer a nightlight and leave the bedroom door open.

When the Scared Feelings Remain

If your 8-year-old responds to your reassurance following an occasional nightmare, there is usually no cause for alarm. However, if the residual effects interfere with your child’s waking hours, talk to your doctor. Nightmares that escalate in intensity and frequency are also red flags for concern. Consult your doctor if your child experiences recurring nightmares, nightmares that preclude your child from getting adequate sleep or if the nightmares coexist with changes in your child’s behavior.

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