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Toddler Nightmares

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

hi. i'm new here and thought i'd jump right in with a question. 


i have an almost-3-year-old son. he has never been a good sleeper. he co-slept with us until he was about 2, and even when he was with us, he'd wake a few times a night fussing. he's consistently woken a few times a night since moving into his own room, but it's been pretty clear that he's simply looking for reassurance when he calls for us.


lately, though, he's been having nightmares. he wakes up sobbing uncontrollably or he screams for me. it breaks my heart.  a few months ago, he went through similar, save for one big difference: that time, he told me what his bad dreams were about. he and i talked about it, and they quickly tapered off. 


this time he refuses to tell me what they're about. i'm at a loss as to how to help him through this. i talk to him about dreams in generic terms -they feel real, but they aren't; that they may scare him but he's safe; etc.- but it doesn't seem to be helping.


any thoughts or advice on how to help the boy come to terms with whatever it is that he's dreaming about, without knowing what the big, bad "it" is?


thanks in advance!

post #2 of 8

Same issue here. But we dont' talk about the content of dreams unless it is offered. It is possible to upset them more by discussing. Just be there and maybe talk about how you have nightmares and what you do to make yourself feel better like thinking of a happy place or breathing or hugging someone. Saying something isn't real might be well intended but from a kids point of view it is very, very real.

post #3 of 8
Hi echofuzz!

I'm responding because I had horrible nightmares as a child and continue to have very restless sleep and many bad dreams as an adult. As a child I had multiple nightmares every night. It was horrendous... you're exhausted, but you know the minute you close your eyes, you'll experience very real terror and horror and whatever else. It sucks.

So, your Little Guy may not have words for what the dream was. Sometimes my nightmares were and are just panic, or pain, or loss. those can be the worst, to wake up grieving until you're sick with no clear image to exorcise or explain to helpful ears. Sometimes it's just the sensations and emotions. Other times, the images make no sense in terms of the associated fear. For example, when I was young, maybe 4 or 5, I had the same dream every night for probably the better part of a year, and all the dream scene included was a very picturesque pond with a brick wall on the far side. It terrified me so much I would choke myself screaming.

I wish I had advice, I'm sorry I don't. Just keep hugging him, and letting him talk to you about what's happened while he was asleep.
post #4 of 8

you could move him back into your room but in his own bed. maybe he is frightened being in his own room.

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks, all, for the thoughts and insights.

lovepickles: I hadn't thought of telling him how I deal with nightmares. Thanks! I'm going to try that next time he has one.

MrsGregory: I was prone to nightmares, too... And i'd forgotten about the dreams that just felt scary.

SnapDragon: I wish that were an option... But there isn't enough room for his bed in our room.

Thank you all again for the help! =)
post #6 of 8


Edited by LKHattinen - 12/6/12 at 12:18am
post #7 of 8

I am not sure how big your room is but just fyi we have a side carred crib- a crib with one side off and attached to our bed= and we have a pretty small bedroom and it just fits our queen bed and ds's crib (he is 2.5) ad a little rm to walk! But I am totall an advocate of having the little ones sleep in the same room so I would try to make that happen for your little guy if it were me- but I know everyone has their own way to do things that works for them . . .

post #8 of 8

My three year old daughter does this too. The last really bad one she had she was screaming, shaking, and throwing herself everywhere. I sat on her bed, picked her up, got her mostly calmed down and asked her what was the matter. I knew it was a dream, but I wanted to give her a chance to open up and talk about it if she wanted to. She must have been dreaming about something to do with the closet in her bedroom because I pointed at the doorknob and asked her if that's what she meant, and she started screaming and crying again. So I had my husband come into her bedroom too since she is a big daddy's girl. I held her on her bed, while he turned on the light and opened the closet door to reassure her that there was nothing in there that would hurt her. Just clothes. She smiled and walked by the door and looked up at my husband and smiled and said "I fold clothes" So the next day, I had her help me empty the clothes out and take care of them again, so that she could see that there was nothing to be afraid of inside it. She hasn't been afraid of the closet since then, but my 2 year old daughter has started waking up shaking uncontrollably and crying in the middle of the night now too. It's hard, but reaassurance, night lights, I have a project light nightlight in their bedroom. It projects a princess standing in the grass in front of a pink castle with a bright blue sky, and rainbow clouds, before they go to bed at night, I show them that the princess is in thier with them and won't let anything happen to them, and that mommy is right across the hallway. It's a long process. I hope everything gets better for you, and your LO :)

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