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Q: A little while ago, my 7-year-old son and I began to read a book on Egypt. It started to bother him so we changed books. He had a nightmare about mummies that night and we let him sleep in our bed. Same thing happened the next night. He has been up several times every night since. We won't let him sleep with us again and I have been going into his room and soothing him, and teaching him relaxation techniques. I am at my wits' end. He yells for me every time he wakes up and wants me to help him go back to sleep. If I don't respond he continues to yell or comes into our room. No one is well rested. What can I do?
A: You are doing the right things with your son. Keep encouraging him to stay in his room and let him know that you are sure he can handle it. Consistency over time will help him get over this fear.
You may also want to leave a nightlight on in your son's room, or a light on in the hall. If he wakes up during the night, he'll be able to get his bearings and see that he is safe. As his sleeping improves, you can reduce the light gradually until it is the way it was before the bad dreams began.
If the problem worsens, or goes on for a period of weeks, you might consider finding a therapist to work with your son. The school counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to someone in your community.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.