Nightmares are frightening, especially to a young child that has not learned whatís real and whatís make-believe. During the Halloween season, children are exposed to different monsters and urban myths that may cause anxiety and result in exaggerated fears or bad dreams. "Parents need to be especially aware of what their children are exposed to during this holiday," said Dr. Peter Stavinoha, neuropsychologist at Children's Medical Center of Dallas. "Scary movies, video games and urban legends told by older children can all trigger a nightmare or cause the child to not want to go to bed."
If your child is having a hard time falling asleep because of monsters in the closet, Stavinoha recommends offering reassurances such as night-lights, open doors and a quick run-through of the entire room. Remind your child that Mom and Dad are close by. Acknowledge the fear and share similar experiences from your childhood and how you got over the fear. If these measures fail to calm your child, Stavinoha encourages parents to logically discuss the problem. Emphasize that they know monsters arenít real and that television may be one source of the fear. Explore the possibility of not watching TV before bed until the fear subsides. Confronted with the possibility of losing their television privileges, it is likely that your child will be off to bed in no time.
To help a child through a nightmare, Dr. Stavinoha recommends a good hug and reassurances that Mom or Dad is there to take care of them. "Children are seeking safety and calm after a nightmare," Stavinoha said. "Mom or Dad should stay in the room until the child is calm and asleep. If the child wants to talk about the nightmare, they should be encouraged to do so. Keep it brief and help the child fall back to sleep."