My son seems to have at least one horrible nightmare a week. These nightmares sometimes even keep him frightened into the next day. Do you think he experienced some sort of traumatic event that I don’t know about? I’m terribly worried. I try to let him sleep in my bed a few nights a week to avoid having these nightmares.
— Signed, Scaredy pants
Kerry says: Restless sleep from scary dreams is very natural in childhood. Studies show that approximately 40 percent of children between the ages of 5 to 12 experience occasional nightmares. In children who do experience nightmares, they sometimes happen on a weekly basis. Moreover, although traumatic events can certainly trigger nightmares, more often than not, nightmares are not a cause for concern. Some good ways to help your child cope with nightmares would be to first, go to your child when you hear him having a nightmare. Speak to him in a soft, calming voice. Then explain to your child that he is having a bad dream, and encourage him to discuss it. Try snuggling with him for a few minutes until he feels safe and secure. And lastly, leave the bedroom door open and turn on a soft light.
Jacqueline says: While I agree with Kerry that nightmares are common, nonetheless, if your child’s nightmares become frequent enough to disturb his sleep patterns to a degree that interferes with his daily life, you should check with your child’s pediatrician. Furthermore, you should not allow your child to get in the habit of sleeping the remainder of the night in your bed, as it sends the message that his room is unsafe. Moreover, don’t minimize his feelings. Instead, take the time to assure him that he’s safe. Never ever get angry with your child for being babyish, and know that most children outgrow nightmares on their own.
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My 2-year-old has temper tantrums constantly! I can’t seem to stop him from behaving this way, no matter what I try. I find I just lose my cool and yell, which I feel guilty about later. Will he ever outgrow it? What can we do about it?
— Signed, Want to scream myself
Jacqueline says: The first thing you don’t want to do is to lose your cool. When your child is in this state, he’s totally unable to listen to reason and he will just respond negatively to your yelling.
What actually works effectively is to just sit down and be with him while he’s having his tantrum. Moreover, if you find him thrashing around on the floor, pick him up and hold him. He will calm down more quickly and find your embrace comforting.
When the tantrum subsides, hold your child and talk about what happened. Acknowledge his frustration, and help put his feelings into words, saying for example, “You were very angry because you couldn’t find your favorite toy,” or “I’m sorry I didn’t understand you. Now that you’re not screaming, I can find out what you want.”
Lastly, pay attention to what sets off the tantrums. If he falls apart when he’s hungry, for example, then carry snacks with you. And remember, your child is seeking his independence, so offer him choices whenever possible, such as “Would you like corn or beans?” rather than “Eat your beans!”
Kerry says: While that’s good advice, sis, I say: don’t give in to unreasonable demands or negotiate with your screaming child. By conceding, you’ll only be teaching your child that pitching a fit is the way to get what he wants, and setting the stage for future behavior problems. Furthermore, if your 2-year-old’s outburst escalates to the point where he’s hitting people or pets, throwing things, or screaming nonstop, pick him up and carry him to his bedroom. Tell him why he’s there and let him know that you’ll stay with him until he calms down. If you’re in a public place, then I suggest you leave with your child until he gets a grip.
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My husband and I are expecting another baby in a few months. I’m worried about how my 4-year-old will handle it. He’s been the center of attention up until now and pretty soon he will have to share the spotlight. Any suggestions?
— Signed, No sibling rivalry
Kerry says: There are several things you can do to reduce the feelings of jealousy between your child and your newborn. For one, explain in advance that another baby will be joining the family. Reassure him that you’ll always love him just the same. Be honest that babies can’t do anything for themselves and you will need to give him a lot of time and attention. Be sure to involve your child and let him know that he can help out as much as he wants. And lastly, try to keep his routine as normal as possible without too many additional changes.
Jackie says: I agree with you, Ker, on this one. I also suggest that you and your child begin reading books together about having a new baby. Try practicing what baby care will be like with a doll. Make it fun, and he’ll see it as such.
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