What Causes Nightmares in Children and What Parents Can Do About It

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, pp. 15, 21. I couldn’t have been that young. Maybe I was 10 or 11 by then because we were in the new house. I would be sleeping but feel as though I were awake. I’d be looking at my room and it looked the way it always did—and yet, somehow different. Still dreaming, I’d get up, and feel my way along the hall in the dark, and it would look and feel the same—except different. I’d make my way downstairs to the kitchen for a drink of water, and there, too, everything seemed normal, except it wasn’t. If I was very, very lucky, I could wake myself from these horrible dreams of being awake when I wasn’t. The only problem is that since, in my nightmare I fully believed I was awake, that was hard to do. If I didn’t wake up, I’d experience intense anxiety as I got through that dream, and I’d remember the entire awful experience the next morning when I woke up. Although I kept vowing to somehow know that I was in a dream in the future, so I could wake myself up, it rarely happened. What Causes Nightmares? My take on nightmares is that they’re all about control—or the lack of it. On September 10, 2001, we lived with the ridiculous delusion that we know what’s going to happen next and, to some degree, we have control over our lives. Not so the next day. But children are smarter than we are in that regard. They know how precious little control they really do...
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