Q: How do I best help my 6 year old? She struggles with anxiety and super creepy, demented nightmares. Tips for either issue would be very appreciated!
A: Nightmares are very normal at that age. Children at this age are starting to understand real life dangers, and these realizations can come out in dreams. At 6 years old, your daughter is able to distinguish between reality and dreams, but it is still a terrifying experience. Most kids get nightmares for no apparent reason, sometimes they are linked to stressors but often they are linked to TV shows, stories, or other things they come in contact with. If there are no current stressors or past experiences that are contributing to her dreams, it is likely just how she is processing her experiences currently.
Get creative! If it is monsters, make a “monster spray” together to spray under the bed or in the closet. Or maybe get her a new stuffed animal that scares away the bad thoughts. Maybe a happy song that keeps bad dreams away. Think of a creative solution together. Make sure she is comfortable, in my research I found out that when some children get cold at night it can trigger nightmares.
Above all, do what you can to make her feel safe. Let her talk about her dream. However, if she doesn’t want to talk about the dream that is fine too. Sometimes asking them to come up with a happy ending to a scary dream can be beneficial. It can also be helpful to establish a relaxing bedtime routine, and don’t feel bad about rocking her to sleep or holding her if that is what she needs after a scary dream.
Since she is experiencing anxiety outside of nighttime and dreams I would talk to your pediatrician. Counseling could be a good option to help her develop some healthy coping skills to manage her anxiety.
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