Top 3 Mistakes Parents Make After Child Has a Nightmare

04/17/2015 04:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2015

By dealing with kids' nightmares in the right way, you can not only reduce the occurrence of bad dreams and have a family that gets a better night's sleep, you can also use these moments to develop a closer relationship with your child.

As a mom of a 5-year-old and a former psychotherapist -- through trial and error, among other things -- I've found some of the best and worst ways to deal with nightmares.

Check out the three things not to do after your child has a bad dream:

1. Saying, "It's Only A Dream." Dreams aren't real, but the thoughts and emotions behind dreams are. By telling children, "Don't worry about nightmares, because their not real," and leaving it at that, you won't be giving children what they need, which is empathic understanding and help processing the confusing emotional state they are left in after a bad dream.

2. Using, "Come Sleep In My Bed" As The One And Only Solution. Whether to let children sleep in their bed after a nightmare is a hot button issue for many parents. The truth is, that's not the most important issue. The real issue is whether or not you are providing additional coping strategies so that your child can learn the process of self-soothing after a nightmare regardless of whether or not you let them sleep in your bed.

3. Letting Your Child Hold It Inside. Does this mean you should nag or force your child into a conversation if they don't feel comfortable talking? Absolutely not. However, allowing them to keep their dreams inside will cause the emotions to fester. In the same way that you would treat a physical wound so that it heals, you need to address the psychological turmoil that nightmares cause by communicating with your child.