In this counseling answer:
•Start calming your son down at least two hours before his bedtime. Do not let him watch television or read stories about topics that might be scary for him. Instead, let him play with toys or just spend time with you and your husband.
•Calm him down before he goes to sleep and remind him about the du’aa` he should read before he sleeps. Try not to talk about nightmares just before he sleeps. Tell him to think of good things like his family, his friends, etc.
Early child development specialists have varied opinions about when and how to introduce religious concepts such as good and evil, shaytan, heaven and hell. One thing is for sure that each child is unique. As parents, you spend the most time with your child. You can assess his level of comprehension.
Observe your son well. What is his reaction when you talk about his nightmares. Ask him to describe his nightmares. If he is unable to describe in detail why he is afraid, then you need not be detailed with him when you talk about what will protect him. The idea is to let him know that Allah (SWT) protects us in the night when we read the Qur’an before going to bed.
Telling him that the animals will not bite him if he reads the Qur’an before going to bed is an example of what not to do. If you make such promises and, in fact, your son does have nightmares in which the animals try to bite him, he will lose faith in the power of reciting the Qur’an before sleeping.
Another strategy is to start calming your son down at least two hours before his bedtime. Do not let him watch television or read stories about topics that might be scary for him. Instead, let him play with toys or just spend time with you and your husband.
Calm him down before he goes to sleep and remind him about the du’aa` he should read before he sleeps. Try not to talk about nightmares just before he sleeps. Tell him to think of good things like his family, his friends, etc.
May Allah (SWT) help you and guide you in raising excellent Muslim children. Thank you for being concerned.
And Allah knows best.
Answer by Counselor Du`aa’ Gamal
The best age to introduce religious concepts is still controversial amongst the specialists. However, concepts of evil and the hidden should not be introduced early. It cannot be made tangible to a child’s mind. What he sees in his sleep might help to realize a hidden fear in his daily life, which could mean he is feeling insecure or unsafe emotionally and psychologically in his environment. If we let Allah protect us, He will.
Usually, children have nightmares between the ages of 2 and 7. There are reasons behind having nightmares.
-Maybe the child is worried about something.
-Maybe the child has seen parents argue or witnessed a bad family situation (strong argument or abuse).
-Maybe the child has seen a scary movie or video during the day or, especially, before going to bed. This -would lead to fears of monsters or animals.
-Maybe the child is having difficulty with playmates or in nursery school.
-Maybe there are physical conditions such as illness, fever, or an accident.
Basically, anything that a child finds upsetting may cause nightmares. Observe your son well to figure out the reason for these nightmares. From your question, it seems that the reason involves a fear of animals.
-When your child has a nightmare, there are several things you can do:
-Go to your child immediately and provide comfort. Reassure your child that it was only a dream and is not real.
-Stay with your child, who may even want to sleep with you in your bed.
-Talk with your child the next day. Talk about anything he or she wants to talk about, but don’t make suggestions or put ideas in his or her mind.
-Ask your child to describe the nightmare. If your child is unable to describe it in detail, drawing and painting may help.
-Talk to your child about any problems or worries he or she may have.
-Reassure your child by letting him or her know that Allah Most High protects us in the night if we read the Qur’an before going to bed.
-Play and recite the Qur’an before going to bed.
-Talk to your child about how much Allah loves him or her. Explain how Allah will protect him or her day and night, no matter where he or she is.
There are several things that can be done to help the avoidance of nightmares, such as:
-Find the source of the nightmare.
-Ensure the bedtime routine is nice, happy and calming.
-Do not let your child watch television or read scary stories A nice story can be soothing, though. So can a bath, a nightlight, or a song.
-Talk about the good things that happened that day, or just talk about anything your child wants to talk about.
-Let your child play with toys or just spend time with you and your husband.
-Remind your child about the du`aa’ (supplication) he or she should read before sleep.
-Try not to talk about nightmares just before your child sleeps.
-Tell your child to think of good things, like family, friends, or anything else that is pleasant.
-If a child suffers from recurrent or very disturbing nightmares, the aid of a therapist may be required.
And Allah knows best.
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