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Sleep Tight: How to Stop the Nightmares after Tragedy Strikes

Sweet Dreams little one…

Every day there seems to be another story of death, or loss in the world. I remember reading a story of a child who lost his younger brother and after the incident, could not sleep; he couldn’t silence the images in his head of brother he lost.

Recently, my son started having nightmares, and although he has not been a victim of direct tragedy, it got me to thinking, how do we as mothers calm the nightmares that keep our children up at night? Tragedy eventually happens to everyone, right, so below are some tips to help your little ones to sleep tight so those bed bugs do not bite.

  1. Face it – As parents we want to shield our children from everything that we possibly can. But in the face of tragedy the best thing we can do is address the situation right then and not shy away from the hard questions or comments. Keep the conversation age appropriate, using words that your little one can understand, and be prepared for the questions that may come. Our children look to us as examples, so if we can stand tall in the tough times, so can they.
  2. Keep the routine as normal as possible– Routines are essential to the well-being of our tiny little humans. Routines are essential to the well-being of our large humans also, so when things get chaotic, keeping a schedule helps to keep a sense of normalcy. Of course, there may be the nights when they need extra hugs, or may want to cuddle in bed next to mama at 2am, and I am all for the extra cuddles, but try to keep things as normal as possible so that your little ones feel as normal as possible.
  3. Grief Books and Play Therapy– I’m not saying that you have to spend thousands of dollars to make sure your kid is processing their grief, but there are different books that you can purchase to help your child express their emotions and know what is normal to feel at the current time.  I recommend ” God Gave us Heaven” by  Lisa Bergan & Laura Bryant. Also, you can perform simple play therapy exercises at home with crayons, paper, and the dolls that you have in your home. What kids can’t say to you verbally, they can generally draw, or act out with their toys. Sometimes it’s just as simple as paying attention when they are playing to see how they truly feel deep inside.
  4. Know when to get help– The most important tip is to know when to get help. Although as mothers we wear the “S” on our chest and we think we can do it all…sometimes we can’t (shhhh…I know, our little secret). You must know when professional help is needed and be okay with getting that help as soon as you can. Once a professional is brought in, they can help to provide more guidance on ways that you can continue to help your child cope with tragedy at home.

Nightmares happen, and although I couldn’t figure out why my 3-year-old was waking up crying every night, I used some of these same steps to help him sleep through the night again. Remember, that tragedy effects every person differently, so watch for the signs, take the appropriate actions, and make sure that while you are taking care of your family, that you take care of yourself.


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