Q&A: Can a 2-year-old have nightmares?
Can a 2-year-old have nightmares? And if so, how can I help her when she seems scared?
Active dreaming is thought to begin during toddlerhood, which unfortunately means that 2-year-olds not only start to have more vivid dreams, but also can experience nightmares. These scary, sad, or disturbing dreams most often occur well after a child has fallen asleep—typically in the second half of the night. As you may have already discovered, they can be especially distressing for young children, not to mention their parents.
While it’s not always clear what causes nightmares, it’s a good idea to remember that young children don’t separate make-believe from reality very well, so it’s a good idea to limit what your child is exposed to on television and/or in movies, and provide a calm, consistent bedtime routine. If and when your child does wake up having had a nightmare, it may take some effort to calm him/her down again. As children get older, it can help to simply discuss what they were dreaming about, offer them reassurance that it wasn’t real, and try to help them think of something happier as they try to fall back asleep again.