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“Mamaaaan! I had a nightmare ! »… Standing by our bed, our little girl shivers with fear. Awakened with a start, we try to keep a cool head: it’s nothing to worry about a child having nightmares, on the contrary, cis a necessary processe, which allows him to manage the fears and anxieties that he was not able to express or integrate into the day. “Just as digestion allows to evacuate what has not been assimilated by the body, nightmares allow the child to evacuate an emotional charge which has not been expressed”, explains Marie-Estelle Dupont, psychologist. The nightmare is therefore a necessary process of “psychic digestion”.

A reaction to his day

Between 3 and 7 years, nightmares are frequent. Most often, they are directly related to what the child has just experienced. It could be information heard, an image seen during the day, which frightened him and that he did not understand, or a difficult situation that he experienced, which he did not tell us about. For example, he was scolded by the teacher. He can calm his emotion by dreaming that the teacher is complimenting him. But if the anguish is too strong, it is expressed in a nightmare where the mistress is a witch.

An unsaid that he feels

A nightmare can arise as a reaction to an “airtight situation”: something the child feels, but has not been made explicit. Unemployment, birth, separation, moving … We would like to protect him by delaying the moment to talk to him about it, but he has powerful antennas: he perceives in our attitude that something has changed. This “cognitive dissonance” generates anxiety. He will then dream of a war or a fire which justifies his feelings, and allows him to “digest” it. Better to clearly explain to him what is being prepared, using simple words, it will calm him down.

Topic Veel teemast:  Unes kõndimine lastel

When to worry about a child’s nightmares

It is only when a child has the same nightmare on a regular basis, when it distresses him to the point that he talks about it during the day and fears going to bed, that we need to investigate. What can worry him like this? Does he have a concern that he does not talk about? Is it possible that he is being bullied at school? If we feel a blockage, we can consult a shrink who, in a few sessions, will help our child to name and fight his fears.

Nightmares related to his stage of development

Some nightmares are linked to early childhood development : if he is in the process of potty training, with his problems of retaining or evacuating what is in him, he may dream that he is locked in the dark or, conversely, lost in a forest. If he crosses the Oedipus stadium, trying to seduce his mother, he dreams that he is hurting his dad… and feels very guilty when he wakes up. It’s up to us to remind him that dreams are in his head and not in real life. Indeed, up to the age of 8, he still sometimes has trouble putting things into perspective. It is enough that his dad has a small accident for him to believe responsible for it.

Her bad dream reflects her current concerns

When a big brother feels angry with his mother and jealous of the breastfeeding baby, he does not allow himself to express it in words, but will transpose it into a nightmare where he will devour his mom. He can also dream that he is lost, thus translating his feeling of being forgotten, or dream that he falls, because he feels “let go”. Often, from the age of 5, the child is ashamed of having nightmares. He will be relieved to learn that we too were doing it at his age! However, even to lighten the mood, we avoid laughing about it – he will feel that he is being made fun of and will be mortified.

Topic Veel teemast:  Veronique Mounier

The nightmare has an end!

We do not search the room to find the monster he saw in a dream: that would make him believe that the nightmare can exist in real life! If he is afraid of going back to sleep, we reassure him: a nightmare ends as soon as we wake up, there is no risk of finding it. But he can go to dreamland by closing his eyes and thinking very hard about which one he wants to do now. On the other hand, even if we are tired, we do not invite him to end the night in our bed. “That would mean that he has the power to change places and roles in the home,” observes Marie-Estelle Dupont: it’s much more distressing than a nightmare! “

We ask the child to draw it!

The next day, with a rested head, we can offer him to draw what scared him : on paper, it’s already a lot less scary. He may even ridicule the “monster” by putting lipstick and earrings, or hideous pimples on his face. You can also help him imagine a happy or funny ending to the story.

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