Sunday, 17 March 2013

Nightmares: Why do they suddenly start in young children?

Recently my youngest daughter, Little Miss George (4), had great fun hosting her elder sister, Princess Peppa (6), for a run of sleep-overs in her bedroom. We had a mattress set up on the floor of Little Miss George's bedroom, cuddly toys and all, for Princess Peppa to sleep in. She slept in there for roughly a month.

Why? Because we had a leak in the ceiling off Princess Peppa's bedroom stemming from last years winter of double thick level snow covering our roof. Without getting into too much detail (you can always tweet me if you're interested), previous owners of our house had taken out the chimney breast in Princess Peppa's room and left the chimney above. It wasn't well supported, and VERY tall, so we had that taken off too and capped. Then the snow came down last year and sat on the capped roof for weeks, slowly getting in behind the render as it hadn't been capped by the workmen correctly (with overlapping edges) so the water ran down into the loft space and ultimately into her ceiling.

The paint on the ceiling was coming away from the plaster under it, so I made an executive decision and moved her out of her room as her bed was directly under it, and I didn't want her traumatised by a ceiling fall in on her in the night. (My mums bedroom ceiling fell in this year, only about a month before when their hot water tank failed. Luckily it wasn't when they were in bed.)

What's all this got to do with nightmares? Well, a combination of having a guest in her bedroom for over a month, and watching a PG film that she shouldn't really have watched at 4 years old. (parenting failure there then), AND me deciding that she had far far far too many cuddly toys in her bed and we should thin them out and store some in her wardrobe... a combination of ALL that...
Excuse me while I take a breath... Phew, that's better...

A combination of ALL that, meant that we suddenly had a daughter who was scared of the dark, scared of going up stairs on her own, and scared of even going to the toilet on her own, even though there's one downstairs. She started waking up in the night and wouldn't settle unless we sat with her.

I felt awful. Not least because, despite my protestations above that there were many causes, I still think the main cause was the film.

A quick look on the British Board of Film Classification website revealed that Parental Guidance (PG) usually means for age's 8 and above. EIGHT! (sorry there's a lot of capitals here today, but I was incredulous when I read that). EIGHT! I was always under the misapprehension that PG was generally fine for children of school age i.e. from 4 onwards.

I have since noticed that many of the Scooby Doo episodes, which she adores, are also PG episodes, though many are rated as Universal (U). It's confusing when presented with a selection of Scooby Doo cartoon DVDs in the shop, as you'd expect to be able to pick any of them up, but no, you can't. Try explaining that to a 4 year old fan of Scooby.

So if you want to avoid a bout of nightmares and a fear of the dark, be really careful which PG films you let them watch, and don't assume it'll be OK without watching it yourself first.

So how do you deal with the Nightmares? Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you how we approached it. She is now sleeping through again.

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Lovely to see you here. Best wishes until next time,

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