Most children have nightmares from time to time. Frightening dreams can start when a child is about two years old, and reach a peak between the ages of three and six years.
Your child may only have a few scary dreams a year, or be troubled by nightmares much more often. About one in four children have at least one nightmare every week. A common theme is being chased by a frightening person or animal.
Coping with nightmares
Here are some suggestions for coping with your child’s nightmare:
- Go to them quickly - it's unlikely they're 'making it up' or pretending if they sound genuinely frightened.
- Give your child a cuddle and reassure them calmly.
- Let your child know you believe them, and can see their feelings are real.
- Even if the 'monster' or the bad situation in the dream isn't real, they're still quite young and sometimes can't tell the difference.
- Stay with them until they're calmer and can get back to sleep.
- Sometimes you can help them by encouraging them to come up with alternate endings for the nightmare that are happy or funny.
If you need help with your child’s nightmares, you can see your doctor for advice and referral.