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Soothing Sleep: Navigating Nightmares

Nightmares can be a challenging aspect of parenting, especially when your child encounters disturbing content that lingers in their dreams. An article from Better Help states: "Most children experience nightmares from time to time. Frightening dreams can start when the child is about two years old, and reach a peak between the ages of three and six years. Nightmares usually occur later in the sleep cycle, from 4am to 6am, but the frequency differs from one child to the next."

I can assure you, your child is not doing this for attention. Nobody, including your tiny tot, wants to wake up at these ungodly hours just for attention. Kaci, my four-year-old, started having nightmares around November/December and baaaaby, it started giving me and her dad a bout of anxiety as well. Waking up to curdling screaming and door banging was no easy feat. Many nights after she's gone back to bed I could still not go back to sleep because I'd be anticipating another round. The amount of sleep we both lost should be a crime. Now, I am not a sleep expert, just a parent and parenting coach that had to tackle the issue of nightmares caused by a seemingly harmless YouTube video and found some helpful ways to navigate this season.

Kaci's Nightmare Odyssey

So first of all, Youtube has to square up with me forever for allowing 'skibidi toilet' to hold space on their platform. Kaci stumbled upon a video on YouTube that initially brought laughter but turned into a source of nighttime distress. Despite efforts to block the video, the algorithm sent us every single page that hosted a similar video and the impact on her dreams persisted, prompting us to take decisive action.

1. Cutting Ties with YouTube:

While we all loved Youtube for her because she learned so much good stuff on it, recognizing the negative influence of the video, we decided to eliminate YouTube all together. This step significantly reduced the frequency of nightmares, emphasizing the importance of monitoring children's online content consumption. She still does not have a screen time limit, but she only has access to Youtube kids alongside of her other favorite apps like PBS kids, ABC Mouse, DUOLingo, and some art apps. So maybe the source of your little one's dreams aren't Youtube, but something else. Pinpoint what ever it may be and remove it if at all possible.

2. Open Communication:

Creating a safe space for Kaci to express her fears was crucial. We initiated conversations about nightmares, explaining what they are and assuring her that they were not her fault. Listening attentively when she woke up in the middle of the night allowed us to provide comfort and support to her in a time of need. Refusing to get up or fussing with her to ignore the panic she felt would not have went over well. I found it easier to take the five minutes to comfort her and have a conversation over the prolonged crying session.

3. Emphasizing Emotional Well-being:

Instead of frustration, we chose empathy. We made it clear that feeling afraid was normal, assuring her that these feelings wouldn't last forever. This approach helped Kaci understand and cope with her emotions.

4. Maintaining Sleep Independence:

Despite the challenges, we held firm on the importance of independent sleep. We resisted the temptation to let her sleep in our bed, reinforced the idea that ourr home was a safe space and dreams were just that – dreams.

5. Introducing the Buddy Alarm Clock:

To provide Kaci with a tangible source of comfort, we introduced a Buddy Alarm Clock. This clever device turned red at bedtime, turned yellow as a gentle reminder that it was almost time to get up, and finally turned green when it was time to start the day. It served as a visual cue that she was being watched over, fostering a sense of security. She cutely calls it her "guard". This alarm clock also comes with a little story book about Buddy to help your children see all that will happen. It will literally become their buddy!

6. Establishing Routines:

The implementation of solid morning and bedtime routines became a cornerstone of Kaci's sleep success. Beyond addressing nightmares, these routines and conversations at certain points in her routines proved beneficial for her overall development.

Through a combination of open communication, empathy, and thoughtful interventions, we are successfully navigating this new terrain. Our journey highlights the importance of monitoring online content, fostering emotional well-being, and creating a secure sleep environment. Every child is unique, but by adapting and implementing similar strategies, parents can provide the support needed for their little ones to sleep peacefully through the night. I hope after you implement some or all of these ideas you get to experience some better sleep!

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