My Child’s Nightmares, How to Stop Them?

26 August, 2021
Q I have a question about my 9-year-old son. He is very frightened about sleeping by himself. We have been trying since he was 3.

He has been successful at times, but most of the time he is scared. He gets bad dreams of bad guys chasing him, and trying to kill him.

I have no idea why he has such fear. We are a very loving family of four. We also have a daughter who is 6 years old.

She is fine sleeping by herself, but because of him, she is also becoming scared. Sometimes, he manipulates her and scares her so that he can sleep with her at least if not with us.

Recently, one of his friends told him about jinns and how they possess people on YouTube. My son seems to have a very weak heart, and cannot stomach anything scary.

Our son is not allowed to use the Internet without strict supervision and does not even like to venture out for that stuff on YouTube.

We do not even allow our children to watch too much TV. Whatever they watch, they watch is carefully selected, non-violent, baby programs – not even for their age.

But his friends talk about everything. They watch programs that are not even allowed for their age and boast of being courageous. He does not even probe his friends for such information and yells at them to stop telling such things.

Our kids go to an Islamic school and know their du`aa's which they read before going to bed. It is a challenge for me to explain anything to him when he asks me why he got a bad dream even when he makes du`aa's before going to bed.

Two weeks ago, he had a bad dream of a possessed girl chasing him even after he left the masjid, (mosque). I tried to tell him that it is only a dream. I'd really appreciate any help in explaining to him how to deal with such dreams.

Al hamdu Lillah, we are all God-fearing in our family. We told him it is not allowed in Islam for kids to sleep with anyone after age 7. He wants to know the reason.

He may be losing his confidence due to this inability which grows day-by-day. My husband is irritated when I let him sleep with us, and rightly so – it does not seem to help him in the long term.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

• To stop your child’s nightmares, your son should not be left alone with his imagination.

•Your son feels terribly insecure, and a sense of emotional-psychological security would help him to cope much better with what he has been experiencing.

•You would be of more help to him, if you could be strong for him, not in any harsh way, but with compassion.

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•If has a bedroom, take a look at the colors and images in his room to see how they can be made lighter, more friendly, warm, and softer.

•When he reads du`aa’ before going to bed, discuss the du`aa’ to be sure he understands what he is saying.

•Read stories to him that contain morals, and demonstrate the power of good.

•Instead of watching age-inappropriate TV, you can begin a collection of videos that are appropriate for his age, but are educational, and fun.


As salamu `alaykum sister,

What if I was to say that there are children who do sleep with each other in some cultures, and those siblings grow to adolescence, still sleeping with each other, and it is not because of the lack of space.

These children from those communities grow to become emotionally inter-dependent, and more mature than their peers in countries where it is considered as wrong to sleep with one’s parents or siblings.

There is nothing un-Islamic about it, because Islamically, it is not the case at all that after the age of 7 that one is not allowed to sleep with anyone; the case that boys and girls should not sleep together.

Your daughter is one person, and your son is another person, and that should be respected. They have different developmental needs as girls mature earlier than boys, and as individuals, they have different needs.

Sometimes, as parents we have prescribed ideas in our minds when it comes to parenting, and assume a child at a certain age should be able to do “X”.

It can be all too easy to raise our children, and not know how they think, and feel etc.

In fact, sometimes we can be in too much of a hurry for them to grow up, and that can apply more to our expectations of boys more than girls.

Your son obviously has a vivid imagination, and with such imagination, one must be mindful of what one exposes them to.

You have done your best to exercise control over what your son is exposed to from the media, but you cannot be with him 24/7.

My Child's Nightmares, How to Stop Them?- About Islam

From what you have said, your son’ nightmares began when he was 3 years old, so maybe there is a reason it did.

Child’s Nightmares

Right now, your son should not be left alone with his imagination, and as with all children, imaginative or not, the importance of talking with them cannot be emphasized enough.

In this way, without judgement on the parent’s part, a child learns to express and understand their emotions, and the parent gets to learn how they think, what they are experiencing, what they have done, and their perception of reality.

By talking with them, playing with them, doing creative play/art with them, we can have a better view of their world, and then they are less likely to feel alone with the “problem” that is developing.

In this way, a child learns to feel secure, and a part of the family emotionally, and a child learns to feel appreciated and respected.

If you can do this, and be patient with what you may learn, it would help your son greatly.

But considering the length of time that your son has had nightmares, it would be wise to see a reputable child therapist from whom you would get much guidance on the matter.

At this moment in time, your son feels terribly insecure, and a sense of emotional-psychological security would help him to cope much better with what he has been experiencing.

As anxious as you feel for him right now, you would be of more help to him, if you could be strong for him, not in any harsh way, but with compassion.

If your son has a bedroom of his own, take a look at the colors and images in his room to see how they can be made lighter, more friendly, warm, and softer.


Check out this counseling video


When he reads du`aa’ before going to bed, discuss the du`aa’ to be sure he understands what he is saying.

Read stories to him that contain morals, and demonstrate the power of good. Instead of watching age-inappropriate TV, you can begin a collection of videos that are appropriate for his age, but are educational, and fun.

And when you watch or listen to anything with him, discuss it so he learns not to be passive to it.

And may your next step be the right step, in sha’ Allah!

Salam

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Hwaa Irfan
Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.