Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Imagination station

This past Christmas, I tried to focus on gifts for T that would encourage imaginary play: play foods, Little People zoos, etc.  For a brief initial burst, she played with all these things and since they have been accumulating dust.  Recently however, T's imagination has undergone a growth spurt.  I think these pictures say it all:

She spent a solid two hours preparing a meal for us, offering us bites, and feeding us.  She insisted on putting on the oven mitt and apron too!I've been catching her having private conversations with her little characters.  She has also started saying prayers with her Praying Bear, Hope (something, something, something, AMEN!).  It is so sweet to see and hear all this develop!

Along with the fun though, she has also started having some nightmares.  A couple times a week, she'll wake up crying.  Luckily, it has coincided with K's nighttime feedings, so we're already awake!  Poor girl, though, she insists on everything being removed from her bed and lots of snuggles to settle down again.  It's been happening enough that I felt like I should do some research to make sure we're addressing it properly.  They all mostly say the same thing, offer comfort, lots of love and reassurance, but saying things like "It's just a dream" is unlikely to help since toddlers don't understand the difference between reality and imaginary.  Look below for some of the advice I found.

Here's what I found on

How to help your toddler after a nightmare

Go to your toddler when she cries out. Physical reassurance is important, so hold her or rub her back until she calms down. You may also want to make sure her favorite stuffed animal or toy is tucked in with her and double-check that the night-light is on. If you bring your toddler into your bed to comfort her, be aware you could be creating a habit that's hard to reverse.

Talk to her about the nightmare if she's old enough to understand what you're saying. But keep in mind that "it's only a dream" won't be much consolation, since at this age she doesn't grasp the difference between reality and dreams.

Preventing nightmares

It's certainly not foolproof, but a peaceful bedtime routine — a warm bath, an upbeat story, a song, and a night-light — can help ward off nightmares. Try reading bedtime books that link sleep with cozy, happy situations, such as Margaret Wise Brown's classic Goodnight Moon.

If the nightmares persist and your child is extremely afraid of going to bed, bring up the subject with her doctor — the bad dreams might signal there's something going on in her waking life that needs addressing.

This article was reviewed by pediatric sleep expert Judy Owens.


What to Do

If your toddler awakens scared from a nightmare:
  • Be understanding and patient.
  • Bring her a glass of water or try wiping a cool washcloth across her brow.
  • Give her lots of hugs, kisses, and reassurance.
  • Let her tell you all about her dream if she wants to talk about it though chances are she might not remember it.

And from Yahoo

How to Help Your Toddler When He or She Has a Nightmare If you suspect your child is having nightmares, don't hesitate to comfort them. Your child is scared, and because of their young age, they may not be able to communicate their fears. Rubbing them gently on the back, tucking them in, making sure the nightlight is still on, and giving them their favorite stuffed animal may help comfort your child after a nightmare.
Don't punish or yell at your child for having a nightmare. Although it can be stressful for parents to wake up at 2:00am to a whimpering, crying and scared child, they are not doing this to be annoying or defiant. Your child is afraid and they need comfort. Don't punish them for communicating in the only way they know how. Lecturing or scolding your toddler for reaching out to you when they feel fearful will not help ease their fears and will only create more stress.
Although it might be tempting to tell your toddler, "It was just a dream," odds are they won't understand what this means. To your child, reality and fantasy are not separate, so the concept of dreaming doesn't make sense to them. Instead, reassure your child that you are there for them and they're safe.
If you're comfortable with it, you might allow your child to spend the remainder of the night in bed with you. This decision may not be advisable if you're afraid of your child making sleeping with you a habit. If you don't mind it, then it may help to comfort your child.
How Can I Prevent Nightmares?
There is no sure-fire way to prevent your toddler from having nightmares, but creating a more peaceful bed time routine may help. Try giving your child a warm bath before bed, and reading a story to them before tucking them in. A peaceful routine may help keep them calm and relaxed, while reading them a positive children's book may prevent any negativity or scary things from during the day from transferring into nightmares!

1 comment:

Clare said...

Don't know if this really applies to nightmares but I know when R was having separation troubles my sister (a child pshycologist) told me a big thing was saying "I understand that you are sad and scared". But instead of saying "It's ok" or something like that, hearing that Mommy and Daddy understand that they are scared is helpful b/c then they know what they are feeling isn't wrong.