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What Causes Your Child’s Nightmare?
Sexual stimulation at this age of teenagers can also cause severe anxiety and nightmares. Your child may have open communication from a visitor, sibling or peer or simply witness or listen to parents during intercourse, which he does not understand and may perceive as violence and aggressive. Or he may feel conflicted because of his desire to replace his father, or the daughter’s mother, as the partner of the other parent. Such concerns could be further encouraged when the child gets the chance to sleep in the parents’ bed as usual.
Martin, a five-year-old boy I saw, would come into his parents’ bed every night, crawl between them and start kicking until he literally kicked his father out of bed. The father would then go into the son’s bedroom to sleep. For his father it was the easiest thing to do and he got more sleep, but Martin did not sleep well at all and had many nightmares about threatening monsters.
When I discussed the situation with the parents, they agreed that it would be best to insist that Martin always return to his own bed, and Martin ( despite initial protests and resistance) much more comfortable with this type of control in the end. Before long his nightmares disappeared completely.
Your child at this age may also find it difficult to understand the concept of death, and may have serious concerns about falling asleep and not waking up again. Harold, who was six years old, had no problem sleeping until he went to his uncle’s wake. He was told not to worry, because his uncle would look ‘just as he was sleeping’, and indeed the boy learned that his uncle had ‘died in his sleep’. Harold’s nightmares after this experience were clearly related to his anxiety about death and confusion between sleep, death and the risk of dying in sleep. Once Harold was encouraged to talk more openly about his feelings about his uncle’s death and funeral, and after his parents corrected some of his misconceptions through discussion and reading to him a book about death written for children, Harold’s bad dreams disappeared.
Frequent nightmares are not common at ages seven to eleven. The conflicts of previous years should by then have been largely mastered or ‘blocked’, and new stresses are likely to be handled more easily. If your child still has nightmares, he may still be struggling with unresolved conflicts from an earlier age.
During childhood and through adolescence great conflicts and anxieties emerge. As your child gradually becomes an adult, physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally, he has to face many stresses every day. There seems to be a slight increase in nightmares at this time, although it is difficult to say for sure, as teenagers are less likely to talk to other family members about their dreams or wake them up from the night.
Nightmares are part of the normal process of growing up. Because nightmares are dreams, they must occur in REM sleep. Although REM sleep is abundant in newborns and is associated with eye movements and small smiles, we do not know if any of the images, sounds, feelings or thoughts of a dream are present at birth or unless a true dream appears until later. the first year. But dreams, and even nightmares, undoubtedly occur in the second year of life, something that becomes clearer as the child develops speech and therefore the ability to describe them.
A one-year-old child’s nightmare seems to be of simple content. A child usually re-creates and re-experiences a recent frightening event. Even if a one-year-old can’t describe his dreams well, he may be articulate enough to say that he just dreamed about a recent blood test, car accident, or bee sting. Your child at this age does not understand the difference between a dream and reality and therefore, when he wakes up, he will not understand that the dream is over. He may still be afraid, acting as if the threat from the dream is still present. For example, he can be sure that the bee is still in the room, saying, ‘Buzz buzz here’.
Before the age of two, it is clear that dreams are more symbolic, and usually monsters or wild animals represent your child’s excitement and fear. At this age he begins to understand the concept of a dream, but it is not good enough to fully appreciate the difference between a dream and reality. He can admit that he ‘dreams’ of a monster but still insists that ‘the monster is not gone yet’.
As your child grows, his dreams become more complex. At the same time he becomes more able to distinguish dreams from the real world. About five years old he might wake up from a dream with the full understanding that ‘I had just dreamed’. It will be even harder for him to reach this point after waking up from a nightmare. Your child’s ability to treat a dream as ‘just a dream’ continues to develop, and by the age of seven he may be able to handle even the occasional nightmare without waking anyone. for support.
However, when you wake up from a nightmare, the feeling of fear is very real. As one child said: ‘Mum, I know what happened in the dream wasn’t real, but the dream was real!’ He knows he only had a dream, but he still feels the fear associated with it. Rationally he knows nothing happened but emotionally he is not so sure. So Betsy, an eleven-year-old girl, had to get up during the night to make sure her younger brother was okay after he dreamed that he had died. This, although she ‘knew’ very well that it was ‘just a dream’.
So if you are looking for advice on how to improve your child’s sleep habits, please click: Child To Sleep
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