Papa Talk – Handle Children’s Nightmares With Care

Many a time parents of infants wake up in the middle of the night to hear them scream in fright.

One may rush to their bedside to find out the cause of the trauma, only to find them actually going through a bad dream. Now, for many parents the first course of action may be to call out their names, even violently shake them until they wake. I am not sure this should be the best thing to do.

Saqeeb, my four-year-old son, sometimes does have episodes of nightmares and will cry out in his sleep. Being a light sleeper, his mother is mostly the one who will scramble to his aid. She will then gently and soothingly talk to him without waking him. She will ask what the source of his trauma is, and while still half asleep, he will usually come up with all sorts of unlikely scenarios. She will accuse her nanny – who happens to be one of his very best friends – of all sorts of misdemeanours.

And our housekeeper, who shares her living quarters with the nanny, tells us that the nanny too has bad dreams in which she will loudly be heard complaining about her charge’s naughty conduct. It would seem they somehow telepathically link up in their dreams and continue the fights they have in their wakefulness!

Saqeeb’s mother will reassure him that she is right there besides him and that all will be fine. She will continue to talk to him, being careful not to wake him, until he drifts back into deep sleep. Deborah Northcutt, a writer on children, observers that in order to minimise nightmares, there are certain things that parents could do before their children go to sleep, to make sure they calm down and are comforted.

She aises that one should always ensure a calm, quiet and relaxed environment before bedtime. Writing on, she says, “Talk to your babies before they go to sleep, sing a lullaby for them or tell them a story. Babies find the voice of their parents very soothing and relaxing. This will not only put them to sleep better but will help them when they wake up.”

She also suggests parents should remain calm because a baby senses panic from their parents as well. In our own experience, we notice that whenever Saqeeb exerts himself a lot or burns up a lot of energy during play, he is bound to have disturbed sleep patterns, characterised by nightmares and talking in his sleep.

We, therefore, try as much as possible to ensure that he sleeps early, or else we make sure he is in a situation that it will lead him into an afternoon nap. Fortunately the school he goes to, I believe as much as any other kindergarten, sets aside some time for the children to have this very important nap.

Sleep has a way of resting the body and relaxing the mind, preventing unnecessary overload. One thing that is very important to note is that one should never ever attempt to forcibly awaken a child going through a nightmare because it could have devastating and difficult-to-reverse after-effects.

Are you a father? What have you learnt or discovered about your youngsters and parenting? Share joys, trials, challenges, successes. Send them in 500 words to

Source : The Observer

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