Apr 6, 2021


Interviewer: Should you let your child sleep in your bed after having a nightmare? Child psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Chan, what are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Chan: No way. That's a really bad idea. It's a learned behavior. If a child comes into the bed with the parents, they'll go back to the parents' bed again and again and again, and that can be very exhausting and overwhelming to parents. If a child has a nightmare and they need to be calmed down, be reassured, if they need talk through the nightmare and come up with a happy ending, it is better for the parent to go into the child's bedroom, pull in an air mattress, and sleep next to the child.

Interviewer: All right, and what situation would you want to start doing that? Because that could become a learned behavior too.

Dr. Chan: You're very correct. You should set clear limits with your children. You should tell them, "Okay I'm going to come in into your bedroom for only five minutes. I'll scratch your back, we can talk about the nightmare, I'll sing you a song." But establish clear boundaries and expectations, and then gracefully slip out of the room after the child falls back asleep.

updated: April 6, 2021
originally published: October 31, 2017

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